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Virginia DUI Alcohol Monitoring Devices

Many DUI arrests and convictions can result in the use of alcohol monitoring devices, particularly in lieu of incarceration and other harsh penalties. Several of the most widely used alcohol monitoring devices in Virginia are described below.

To find out whether your DUI charge can be reduced through the use of such devices and other alternative forms of sentencing, contact a team of dedicated DUI defense attorneys who practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device (IID) is similar to a breathalyzer. The unit is placed inside the vehicle and hooked up to your vehicle’s ignition system. There is a tube on one end and a cord on the other which travels underneath the dashboard through the vehicle’s firewall and connects to the vehicle’s ignition system. When operated properly, it poses no mechanical threat to the car.

Upon entering the vehicle:

  • The driver must breathe into the mouthpiece.
  • The fuel cell inside the device analyzes the breath sample for alcohol.
  • If the BAC is above the pre-determined limit, the fuel cell triggers a response that shuts down the car’s ignition system.
  • If the BAC is within the pre-determined limit, the fuel cell relay allows the car to start.

However, most devices require the driver to continue to submit samples periodically after the car has started. If the breath sample is not provided during one of these periodic checks, the device logs the event, warns the driver, and – if the vehicle has an alarm system – will engage it until the driver turns off the ignition and provides a clean breath sample.

Some devices can even stop the engine, though they generally give the driver fair warning and up to ten minutes to safely top and exit traffic.

In most all cases where a driver is ordered to use an IID, the driver must pay for the installation and lease of the ignition interlock system. Prices vary for the installation and maintenance of these systems. In general, you can expect to pay up to several hundred dollars for installation and between $50 to $100 per-month for the lease.

SCRAM Devices

SCRAM devices are strapped to the body and work by monitoring a person’s perspiration every 30 minutes. Results are uploaded via modem and monitored by a private company contracted by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

If a person who is ordered to wear a SCRAM device tests positive for alcohol consumption, the company that monitors the device reports it to the court.  Many courts report that most defendants successfully complete alcohol monitoring without incident.

According to some reports, including one by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, DUI/DWI offenders who used SCRAM ankle monitors had a 3.5 percent recidivism rate, which is quite low. Many law enforcement and alcohol education programs strongly recommend the use of the ankle devices for at least 90 days along with their participation in an alcohol treatment program.

The SCRAM apparatus uses the same fuel cell technology found in the latest generation of breathalyzers to detect the presence of alcohol. However, several problems with fuel cell devices can make the devices, at times, unreliable.

At least one study shows that transdermal alcohol measuring devices do not meet all of the basic scientific evidence requirements for admissibility in court. But law enforcement officials are happy with results to-date. And a defendant would probably have to have hard evidence that the device was malfunctioning in order to successfully challenge SCRAM results.

SCRAM Remote Breath Alcohol Tester and GPS Locater

Remote alcohol breath testing is also benefiting from advancements in technology with the Scram RBAT, aka the “rabbit.”  The RBAT is a handheld, wireless, breath alcohol detection apparatus that includes an automated facial recognition feature and GPS locator that records all data every time a subject is tested. It is finding a strong niche with police officers on-the-street who use the device at traffic stops, and probation officers.

It can also be used as a personal follow-up if the SCRAM ankle monitor suggests a pattern of drinking which might find a probation officer making a surprise visit to the subject’s home, workplace (or a bar the subject is not supposed to visit.)

This device also relies on fuel cell data methodology. Initial reports from law enforcement and probation departments on this new device are very favorable due to its ability to detect intoxication, create a visual image at the time of testing, and also create a data profile of the test – including date, time, and location.

Since so many of the emergency technology methods are increasing in popularity in Virginia, it is important that your DUI defense lawyer remain current on all such devices – and the reliability of the technology – when arguing your case or negotiating a plea-agreement.

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