What Is House Arrest with GPS or SCRAM Monitoring?
In a Nutshell: House arrest is just what its name suggests: serving time in one’s home, not jail. To monitor one’s whereabouts and conduct, a judge may require that the person wear a GPS monitor to verify he or she remains in the home at all times and to verify one abstains from alcohol, that the person wear a SCRAM device.
This can be a valuable alternative sentencing option to serve one’s pre-custody period or time in county jail while still fulfilling one’s employment obligations if one can work from home via phone calls and e-mail.
In certain cases, the judge may even permit the defendant to drive to and from work (limited usually to 50 hours per week), religious activities, school classes (i.e. college), grocery shopping, laundry, school, counseling, doctor / dental appointments and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings.
When errands are allowed they are usually limited to no more than four hours per week.
This article is meant to clarify what is possible through GPS and SCRAM. Two main companies handle such services in Southern California – LCA Services and Diversified Monitoring.
House arrest is not for everyone. For example, some domestic violence cases are ineligible, as are most sex offense matters and felony DUI. No strike offense is eligible. Someone with a history of probation violations may also be disqualified.
There are three devices that are commonly used. The first is a radio frequency (RF) home monitoring device. This is for “house arrest” as most of us understand it. The device is a two part system. The first part is an anklet device that is non-removable and water-proof. It transmits a signal to a larger device that then sends a signal to the local police department, either through a land-line or cell phone device. This cell-phone capability is improved technology, as this device used to require the client to have a land-line.
If the anklet is cut off or otherwise tampered with, an alert is sent to the local police to respond or investigate further.
The device is supposed to send an alert to the police every hour to confirm that the suspect (wearing the device) is within range of the larger device and thus, at home as ordered. The device has a back-up battery and a memory card to show the client’s location in case this is every an issue later.
This device is used most frequently with juvenile cases and misdemeanor cases.
The client is supposed to be inside the house at all times. It is not allowed to be in one’s backyard, next-door neighbor’s house or even the garage.
One can take a shower with the device, but not a bath because the device cannot be submerged in water. The device is charged for six months of use.
The second device is a GPS tracking device that simply tracks a client’s movement, i.e. to and from work, AA/NA classes, church, etc., and back home to abide by a curfew. It is this type of device that allows more flexibility for the client. The police track the client’s location. This type of device is used most frequently with high-risk clients. It must be charged periodically.
The third type of device is a continuous alcohol monitoring system, or SCRAM, which is best for a second-time or third-time DUI client. There are two versions of this system. One is the more well-known SCRAM device that detects transdermal alcohol emissions every 30 minutes and thus, alcohol intake. The second version is a BA / RT device, which uses facial image verification to verify the client’s identity and then then allows mobile deep-lung fuel cell testing.
How to ask for court approval for any of these three devices depends upon the case facts, the terms of the plea bargain and the judge’s evaluation of the case. We sometimes ask for approval in court before the client ever surrenders for county jail or city jail. Other times, we prefer not to ask (for fear the judge will say no) and instead contact Diversified Monitoring or LCA to have the company arrange for pick up from the Century Regional Detention Facility (for women, in Lynwood) or the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, or any other jail in southern California.
It is our understanding that LCA has the exclusive contract in Riverside County.
Some courts, such as Long Beach, Torrance and West Covina, allow for surrenders to be fitted with the appropriate monitor at court, which is optimal because it avoids the client spending hours or even days being processed through jail.
The cost of having a GPS and/or SCRAM device varies by the device. The GPS tracking device and the two-piece RF device are the same price, which includes a $57 fee for enrollment (current as of February, 2016) and then a daily fee of $1 to $25. The most common daily rate is $14.95 as of July, 2017.
For more information about house arrest and private jail issues, please click on the following articles: