Is pre-trial use of SCRAM as opposed to IID constitutional?

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the criminal justice system does not impose punishments that are disproportionate to the crime committed, and to protect individuals from being subjected to cruel and unusual treatment.

One way that the Eighth Amendment is upheld is through the use of bail. Bail is a payment or promise made to the court in exchange for release from custody while awaiting trial. It is designed to ensure that the accused appears in court and to protect the community from potential harm.
However, it is important to note that bail is not intended to be punitive before trial. It should not be used as a way to coerce the accused into behavior or lifestyle modification. Instead, the purpose of bail is to ensure that the accused appears in court and that the community is protected.

In determining the appropriate amount of bail, the court must consider the least restrictive means necessary to ensure court appearance and community protection. This is a foundational essential of the Eighth Amendment.
In short, the use of bail must not overreach the court’s community caretaking function. While the court may have a legitimate interest in ensuring that an accused appears in court and that the community is protected, this interest must not infringe on an individual’s rights or be used as a means of punishment before trial.

Project 25 is an interlock-based program that aims to reduce the number of drunk driving incidents on the roads. The program provides funding for states to implement ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for all convicted drunk drivers, regardless of their blood alcohol content (BAC) level.
An IID is a device that is installed in a vehicle and requires the driver to blow into it before the car can start. If the device detects alcohol on the driver’s breath, the car will not start. The device also requires the driver to take periodic tests while driving to ensure that they have not consumed any alcohol since starting the vehicle.

One of the key benefits of IIDs is their effectiveness in preventing repeat drunk driving incidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IIDs have been shown to reduce the likelihood of repeat drunk driving incidents by 70%. Additionally, states with mandatory IID programs have seen a significant decrease in alcohol-related crashes and fatalities.

Project 25 was launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2015, with the goal of reducing the number of drunk driving incidents by 25% over a five-year period. The program provides funding for states to implement IID programs for all convicted drunk drivers, as well as for research and development of new technology and improved enforcement strategies.
Now contrast this with a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) device use pretrial.

By definition, the use of the SCRAM device as a pretrial alternative to the IID (Ignition Interlock Device) is a more invasive form of electronic monitoring. The SCRAM device continuously monitors an accused person’s alcohol consumption by measuring the amount of alcohol in their sweat. Whereas, IID does not. IID only interacts with a person when they are going to drive, not all the time like SCRAM. A SCRAM device costs much more than an IID. A SCRAM device is worn by the person on bail 24/7. Some SCRAM devices also carry GPS-tracking capabilities. Plus, an IID is much more narrowly tailored to the “protection of the community” aspect of bail as the harm to be protected against is not an adult merely drinking but instead an adult drinking to the point of intoxication and driving and potentially hurting someone.

The SCRAM device is a more intrusive form of monitoring that does raise Eighth Amendment concerns. The use of SCRAM as a pretrial alternative must still comply with the Eighth Amendment’s requirement that the least restrictive means be used to ensure court appearance and community safety.
Furthermore, the use of the SCRAM device must be balanced with an individual’s rights to privacy and freedom from unreasonable government intrusion into lifestyle choices that are legal. The use of SCRAM as a pretrial alternative overreaches the court’s community caretaking function and infringes on an individual’s rights before being found guilty of a crime, especially as a much more specifically targeted yet less intrusive method exists namely IID.

In conclusion, the use of SCRAM as a pretrial nail alternative versus the use of IID is currently unconstitutionally used in a manner that is not at all consistent with the Eighth Amendment’s requirement for the least restrictive means of achieving community safety and court appearance. The use of SCRAM over IID is an overreach.

All that is needed to challenge this is a willing defendant.

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Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

2 responses to “Is pre-trial use of SCRAM as opposed to IID constitutional?”

  • I love this blog!! It’s true and I just don’t understand how a judge can have complete disregard for the constitution and the rights of pre-trial defendants!!
    My son has been on pre-trial supervision since May, 2022. He was ordered to get an IID. Then he was ordered to wear and pay for a SCRAM device.
    He’s had it on since July of last year.
    So, I did the math. My son has endured the aggravating vibration from the SCRAM (aka shackles) while it detects alcohol every 15 minutes for almost one year. That comes out to 96 times per 24 hour period.
    That’s approximately 35,040 times since it was ordered by the judge.
    The cost (in Collin County, Texas) is $360 per month. The IID is about $180 + supervision fees + attorney’s fees.
    In November of 2022, my son’s pre-trial supervision person sent a violation to the court concerning the SCRAM.
    My son had to hire a lawyer $$$, come home from his job on an oil rig – loss of $$$ and get a hair follicle test from an independent lab for alcohol to prove he had not been drinking!!! Total cost excluding lost time at work $1,000.
    We need lawyers like you in Texas!!
    Thank you for the blog!

    • Christopher Lane says:

      These scram are a joke. I’ve had mine on since September 24th 2022. Now my court date is November 7th 2023. My 4th and 8th Amendment rights are being violated and I want someone to help me do something about it. I’m charged with 2nd Dui in Jefferson County, Tennessee. I was not even driving I was in my driveway at the back of my truck. The police were called for a Domestic Despiute.

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