SCRAM Bracelet Falsely Triggered by Hairspray

by baronedefensefirm on September 16, 2009

On September 10, 2009 it was reported by the Northwest Florida Daily News that the SCRAM bracelet worn by a 17 year old girl was triggered by hairspray creating a false positive.

Apparently the young woman was working in a hair salon and her exposure to the spray caused the SCRAM bracelet she was wearing to trigger a possible drinking episode.

According to the article:

Jeff Hawthorne, who is the co-founder of Alcohol Monitoring Systems Inc. and who invented the SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) anklet, testified at the hearing. He said SCRAM detects blood-alcohol levels through perspiration.

The device takes readings every 30 minutes, Hawthorne said. It issued an alert July 15 after three separate readings showed that Tirico’s blood-alcohol level was above .02.

But under questioning by defense attorney Clay Adkinson, Hawthorne said an alert could have been issued even if Tirico had not consumed alcohol.

This is similar to a Michigan SCRAM case handled by the Barone Defense Firm shortly after the device had been introduced in Michigan.  The judge in that case ruled that the SCRAM was not reliable and subsequently went on record explaining exactly why he believed this to be true.

After the Florida case SCRAM issued its own press release.  This seems to be an effort at damage control by their company who of course has a vested interest in the reliability of the device. 

Here is a brief excerpt:

According to Colorado-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), the confusion is based on the difference between an “alert” generated by a product like hairspray and an actual confirmed drinking event.

If you are interested in learning more about the SCRAM bracelet you may wish to review the following article: Alcohol Monitoring Ankle Bracelets: Junk Science Or Important Scientific Breakthrough?

Here also is a YouTube video posted by a wearer of the device:

If you are court ordered to wear a scram bracelet and believe it has produced a false positive, contact the Barone Defense Firm today for your FREE consultation.


This post was written by...

– who has written 204 posts on Michigan Drunk Driving Law Firm.

Patrick T. Barone is the author on two books on DUI defense including the well respected two volume treatise Defending Drinking Drivers (James Publishing), and The DUI Book – A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding DUI Litigation in America. He is also the author of a monthly DUI defense column for the Criminal Defense Newsletter, published by Michigan’s State Appellate Defender’s Office. Mr. Barone is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he teaches Drunk Driving Law and Practice. He is also on the faculty of the Criminal Defense Attorney’s of Michigan’s Trial Lawyer’s College where he provides trial skills training to Michigan’s criminal defense practitioners. Mr. Barone lectures nationally on various DUI defense topics, and he has appeared in newspapers, on television and on radio as a drunk driving defense expert. Mr. Barone has been certified as an instructor and practitioner of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and has also attended a 24-hour certification course at National Patent Analytical Corporation (the manufacturer of the DataMaster) and has thereby been deemed competent by the manufacturer to operate, perform essential diagnostic verifications and calibration checks on the DataMaster. Mr. Barone is a Sustaining Member of College for DUI Defense. Mr. Barone is the principal and founding member of The Barone Defense Firm, whose practice is limited exclusively to defending drinking drivers. The Firm is headquartered in Birmingham, Michigan.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Brown September 16, 2009 at 10:45 am

This is not a case of a false positive from hairspray. There is a substantial difference between an alert generated by something like hairspray and a confirmed drinking event. In this case, there was a confirmed event, but procedural issues prevented the judge from hearing the evidence that explains the difference. Note the judge ordered the defendant to continue wearing SCRAM, he clearly has no concerns about its ability to tell the difference. This is a case of procedure, not a false positive.


Joseph June 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Really Kathleen, why did your company take me to court then? Constitutional violations, that’s right, Constitutional violations. If you would comply with the Sixth Amendment-Notice of Accusation which (if this country is not fully The Peoples Republic of America yet) applies to parole and probation revocation hearings as well as prison disciplinary hearings rather than further expansion. If you are ignorant to this, it states an indictment must apprise a defendant of the accusation with reasonable certainty that they can make their defense. This would save you the embarassment of losing cases like this, like mine.


Jennifer E. Souders, MD September 16, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Having read both the article from the Northwest Florida Daily News and the Reuters article which presents the statements of AMS, Inc., I find that there is insufficient evidence for even an expert to make a judgment about the performance of the SCRAM device in this case. This is because the critical facts of the case (the transdermal alcohol readings and the court procedures) are not available. There is certainly evidence that the SCRAM ankle bracelet is capable of detecting transdermal alcohol and doing so with good correlation to blood and or breath alcohol in many cases. Nonetheless, there is no system that is 100% perfect and error-proof. I certainly expect that the manufacturers would state that they can always differentiate between ingestion and interferent. However, it does not logically follow that leaving the device in place is evidence that there was not a false positive. Only factual evidence is useful for drawing that conclusion. In this case, one can find many reasons why the judge would not remove the device, deterrence being the most obvious one. This should not be confused with a certification that the device is error-proof.


Sharell November 16, 2009 at 10:32 am

This is why they tell you when you are issued the SCRAM, not to use any products that have alcohol in them, hairspray, perfumes, lotions, etc. Because it can pick up the alcohol in the readings


dustin December 25, 2009 at 10:02 pm

i have had the scram on for over a year and it has said i drank and i never drank i think for the money we pay for them there should be no wrong readings and just the other day it said it was blocked then a little spike of alcohol and i was a sleep when all this was done i dont belive thay can go by this in the courts if it goes to court im ready cause if i wanted to drink i would no matter wut i dont want to drink i dont want to lose every thing again


pbarone December 25, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Re: Michigan DUI Help – New comment requires moderation on: SCRAM Bracelet Falsely Triggered by Hairspray



Rick May 21, 2010 at 3:54 am

Ok, Here is the real deal. 1st, if you have been convicted of drunk driving, you belong in prison for at least 5 years for the first offence. You obviously dont give a shit about other people. You made a concious choice to drink, so grow up and take the punishment without whinning like a little girl. 2nd, if you have the ankle monitor, you can slip a piece of saran wrap between the sensors and your skin and this will prevent the sweat from reaching the sensor and is thin enough to allow body heat to reach the sensor and no tamper alert will be triggered. Tested and approved, it works.


James May 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Five years?!? I’ve never been convicted of a DUI, but are you willing to pay the extra taxes for more prisons/guards/etc. to support this? If so, you can pay my share too since you are so adamant about your position. People speed too, so I guess they should get a minimum two years because that’s the second leading cause of vehicle-related deaths. I think driving drunk is reprehensible, but to say it requires more punishment than child pornography and drug possession is just ridiculous. I think that the alcohol monitoring devices on people and in cars are enough (in addition to any fines that are levied). It’s not a perfect system and never will be because we have freedom in this country to make our own decisions (even bad ones).


carlie June 5, 2010 at 10:18 pm

That was a very thought out response to Rick. Some people are so close minded that even when they try and come up with some sort of comeback, they sound like fools. You have wonderful background knowledge to back up your defense and as for Rick, well good luck with the close mind buddy.


James Mazur October 8, 2011 at 5:39 pm

What about the electrical charge through your skin? I have scram for 3 days…Am worried.R U sure? can i have sex with girlfriend if she’s been drinking?


Ian May 24, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I had a false positive of .06. They say it started at 11pm and ended 4am. The catch is I didn’t drink, so no way in hell could I have had alcohol. Around the afternoon prior I did dye and bleach my hair. Toner had alcohol with approximately 22%, but I put it in my head. The scram issuers deny that is possible, question is how else did I pop. I have 5 witness who testified I was not drinking, and I know for a fact I wasn’t. This was the first day on the scram. Catch was scram dept waited two days to respond and never did back up check or ask me to come in. They waited a whole week then filed a warrent, Judge released me but beware, the SCRAM does have false positives.


ptbarone May 25, 2010 at 8:45 am

I think our readers would be interested to know why the Judge released you? At least he/she did the right thing in your case. Others aren’t so lucky.


chris esquibel June 24, 2010 at 5:20 am

The scram x bracelet plastic band is poorley designed. im pretty sure they could have designed a more skin friendly band. As for testing resualts the device is gos off for any things. i used foot powre and athelets foot and it went off. I used an antiseptic spreay for a cut and it went off. what the hell. i didnt get in trouble with my case manager but come on no im worred and stressed about what i use!!!!


Al Russ February 4, 2012 at 9:35 am

My name is Al, I had a false reading while wearing the Scram bracelet. I did not drink and had no desire too drink, on the day I was recorded as having drank it was between 4pm – 11pm, the clerk that read the report stated it was so low she thought it was environmental but she was not sure and decided to have one of her superiors take a look and the outcome it was equivalent too drinking one drink for about 8 hours. During that time I was at a dinner party and some drinking was taking place however I did not drink. Also I used jergens body lotion on my body/legs also I had applied a water repellent solution to protect my boots from the weather . The outcome I was issued a court sanction which involves a 6 month stay in a rehabilitation center. I believe this Scram system is flawed and no one is taking the time to prove it wrong/flawed. Please if you know someone who has facts to prove this system wrong ,please come forward.


Caroline February 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm

My husband has been on house arrest for 5 months now. He has got a 6 month sentence. He got the sentence for Evading and Eluding not DUI. They actually had a problem about 4 months in and had to switch out his monitor, because it wasnt supposedly working right. So, about a week ago we had gotten a phone call about 11:15pm. At which time we were in bed. It was in fact the monitoring station, asking where he is was at approximately 10:30 that evening. Well first of all they should know, isn’t that part of being on house arrest? They know if you are home or not. Which of course he was in fact home. Sleeping on the couch. Then they proceeded to tell him that a reading came in saying his alcohol levels were very high, that is why they were calling. He proceeded to explain that he hadn’t been, that he was sleeping and even offered to go to the hospital and take a blood/ urine test, whichever. They told him it was not necessary and also told him he would be hearing from his probation officer within the next two days, that was on a Saturday. did finally hear from her on Wednesday and she said that her supervisor wanted to see him. So he went in the following Friday. At that time the supervisor had told him that it had definitely came up as alcohol and it had come up alcohol again on 3 separate occasions that same week with 1 pending. Wtf? He had not been drinking. He works at a Chevrolet car dealership and doesn’t get home till 9pm then we watch tv and go to bed. He doesn’t have time for anything let alone drink. My husband had told him, ” Why on earth would I have no problem the past 4 months and all of a sudden this? Especially in my last month? Do you think I really want to mess this up, when I am almost done?” They said, “Well we have scientists willing to go on the stand and testify that it was in fact alcohol and who do you think the judge and jury will believe? So consider this your warning, if it happens again you will go to jail.” This is the most awful thing ever. I know and he knows that he hasn’t drank but they are saying he definitely is consuming alcohol. I am such a nervous wreck anymore and pray that it won’t show up again. So the system is definitely flawed.


Chris Roberts January 25, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I received a phone call on monday this week the SCRAM lady nancy asked what I had been doing over the weekend I had just woken up so I really couldnt think of what I had been doing that weekend I know I had my friend Nick over and he was proud because he has just recently decided to get sober from alcohol and was on his three week mark I remember saying to him haha yea well you got a few more months of catching up to do before your up there with me. Besides the usual saturday cleaning everything was pretty regular about the day. I received another phone call on a thursday following from Nancys superior Mary who demanded that I come in before 4pm or a warrant would be issued for my arrest. I sat racking my brain because I swear on everything I love and am I havent consumed a single molecule of alcohol to my knowledge after a good half hour i went into my bathroom and looked at my old spice body spray BAAAAM there it was ALCOHOL DENATURE is what it says on the bottle but in the midst of getting ready for the day and not recieving a phone call right away I am at fault here. Needless to say I tried to call back the probation office and nobody would answer the phones. I knew if I went in there they would throw me in jail so WARREN COUNTY I WILL BE THERE TUESDAY MORNING TO LET THE JUDGE KNOW FIRST HAND HOW SENSITIVE THESE BRACELETS ARE IT SHOULD BE AGAINST THE LAW TO PUT THESE ON PEOPLE I FEEL IT VIOLATES MY RIGHTS AS A HUMAN BEING BEFORE LAW OR ANYTHING WE AS ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE GUARANTEED CERTAIN RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES AND I FEEL LIKE I DONT EVEN HAVE ANY. bet I will be sitting in jail tuesday after I see the judge cuz I dont have a lawyer that wants to defend me just Rob Kaufman and even though he put in the jury demand I know he isnt even close to giving me a hundred percent I guess thats just the way it is when you have a PUBLIC PRETENDER…


lisa March 26, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I have had the bracelet on for 5 days now. I have been trying very hard to watch what products I use. The thing I’m concerned about is having sex with my boyfriend. He does drink often and I have been getting mixed advice on weather or not it will show up as a reading. Does anyone know for sure?


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  • More Texas Courts Ordering SCRAM Bracelets for DWI Charges | Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Alcohol Monitoring Ankle Bracelet Can Give False Positives | Phillipson & Lundin

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