Is There an Ankle Monitor for Alcohol?

We’re all familiar with ankle monitors that track locations for house arrest or parole. But what if someone’s legal issue involves alcohol rather than location? Could there be an ankle monitor designed to detect alcohol consumption?

Is There an Ankle Monitor for Alcohol

Yes, there is an ankle monitor for alcohol. It is called a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM). A SCRAM monitor is a bracelet that is worn around the ankle. It tests the wearer’s sweat for alcohol every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day.

The SCRAM monitor uses a transdermal alcohol sensor to test for alcohol. Transdermal alcohol sensors measure the amount of alcohol that is excreted through the skin. When someone drinks alcohol, a small amount of it is excreted through the skin in the form of insensible perspiration.

The SCRAM monitor is a very accurate way to test for alcohol consumption. It can detect alcohol levels as low as 0.02% BAC. This is lower than the legal limit for driving in most countries.

How Do Alcohol Ankle Monitors Work?

Alcohol ankle monitors work by detecting the presence of alcohol in a person’s perspiration. Here’s a brief overview of their operation:

  1. Transdermal Alcohol Detection: These devices use transdermal alcohol testing, which means they analyze the amount of alcohol (if any) present in the sweat on the skin.
  2. Regular Sampling: The monitor takes samples of the wearer’s perspiration at regular intervals, typically every 30 minutes, to test for the presence of alcohol.
  3. Alcohol Detection: If alcohol is detected in the perspiration, it indicates that the person has consumed alcohol. The level of alcohol detected can give an indication of the amount consumed.
  4. Data Transmission: The monitor sends the collected data to a remote server or monitoring center. This transmission usually occurs several times a day, either through a landline, cellular network, or other wireless methods.
  5. Alerts for Violations: If alcohol is detected above a predetermined level, or if tampering with the device is detected, it can trigger an alert to the authorities or a designated monitoring agency.

Who Uses Alcohol Ankle Monitors and Why?

Alcohol ankle monitors are used by various groups for different reasons:

  1. Judicial Systems: Courts often use these monitors for individuals convicted of DUI/DWI offenses. They ensure compliance with probation terms that prohibit alcohol consumption.
  2. Law Enforcement Agencies: To monitor individuals on bail or parole who have a history of alcohol-related offenses, ensuring they adhere to their no-alcohol conditions.
  3. Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Programs: These monitors can be part of a treatment plan, providing accountability and supporting recovery efforts for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction.
  4. Child Custody Cases: In some cases, a parent might be required to wear a monitor to ensure they are not consuming alcohol, especially when their alcohol use is a concern in the context of child visitation rights.
  5. Voluntary Use: Individuals who want to stay accountable in their personal sobriety goals may voluntarily choose to wear these monitors.

The primary reason for using these devices is to ensure compliance with legal, rehabilitation, or personal commitments to abstain from alcohol, providing a continuous and objective measure of adherence.

Are Alcohol Ankle Monitors Effective in Preventing Relapse?

The effectiveness of alcohol ankle monitors in preventing relapse is subject to debate and varies based on individual circumstances. However, here are some key points to consider:

  1. Accountability and Deterrence: The constant monitoring acts as a deterrent against alcohol consumption due to the immediate consequences (like legal repercussions or program violation) of detected alcohol use.
  2. Continuous Monitoring: Unlike sporadic testing methods, these devices provide continuous monitoring, making it more difficult for an individual to consume alcohol without detection.
  3. Support for Recovery Efforts: For individuals in recovery, the knowledge that alcohol use will be detected can support their commitment to sobriety and can be integrated into a broader treatment plan.
  4. Data for Treatment Providers: The data collected can help treatment providers understand patterns of alcohol use and tailor interventions accordingly.
  5. Psychological Impact: The presence of the monitor can serve as a constant reminder of the wearer’s obligations to remain sober, which can be both a motivating factor and a source of stress.

However, it’s important to note that ankle monitors are tools that support, but do not replace, comprehensive treatment and support systems necessary for effective long-term recovery from alcohol addiction. Their effectiveness is enhanced when combined with therapy, support groups, and other rehabilitation strategies.

Legal and Ethical Considerations of Using Alcohol Ankle Monitors

The use of alcohol ankle monitors raises several legal and ethical considerations:

  1. Privacy Concerns: The constant monitoring of an individual’s alcohol consumption can be seen as an invasion of privacy. There’s a debate over the balance between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s safety.
  2. Legal Compliance and Due Process: These devices are often mandated by courts, raising questions about due process rights, especially in cases where there’s no conviction of an alcohol-related offense.
  3. False Positives and Reliability: The potential for false positives and the reliability of the technology can impact legal decisions, potentially leading to unjust penalties for individuals.
  4. Stigmatization and Social Impact: Wearing an ankle monitor can be stigmatizing, impacting an individual’s social life and mental health. This stigmatization can affect employment opportunities, social relationships, and community standing.
  5. Consent and Voluntariness: In some cases, individuals may agree to wear a monitor voluntarily, but the extent of their consent, especially in a legal context (like a plea bargain), can be ethically complex.
  6. Cost and Financial Burden: Often, the cost of monitoring is passed on to the individual, which can be a significant financial burden, raising concerns about equal access to justice.
  7. Use in Rehabilitation and Treatment: Ethical concerns arise when considering the role of such monitoring in treatment programs, particularly in balancing the need for surveillance with supportive care and rehabilitation.

These considerations reflect the ongoing debate about the role of technology in the legal system and its impact on individual rights and societal norms.


Alcohol Ankle Monitors represent a significant advancement in monitoring technology, offering a practical solution for ensuring compliance with alcohol abstinence in various legal and rehabilitation contexts.

While they provide a valuable tool for deterring alcohol consumption and supporting recovery efforts, their use also brings forth complex legal and ethical issues, including privacy concerns, potential stigmatization, and the reliability of the technology.

As we continue to navigate these challenges, it’s clear that alcohol ankle monitors, when used judiciously and as part of a comprehensive approach to treatment and rehabilitation, can play a crucial role in enhancing public safety and supporting individuals in their journey towards sobriety.

However, it remains essential to balance technological oversight with respect for individual rights and the broader goal of effective and compassionate rehabilitation.

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