By Setarah Jahid
On Thursday afternoon, May 24, 2018, a hearing unfolded in Department 8 with Judge David Reed presiding.
The defendant, Rafael Ralston, a two-time DUI offender, had been accused of violating his probation by consuming alcohol.
Direct examination began with questioning from Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt. According to the first witness, a Ms. Murke who works in the probation department, the alleged violation of alcohol consumption occurred on May 3 or May 4. Mr. Van Zandt asked Ms. Murke if there were any other restrictions besides alcohol intake imposed through the defendant’s probation, to which she responded, “wearing the alcohol bracelet.”
In cross-examination, Mr. Jobb, the prosecuting attorney, asked Ms. Murke if there was any way the alcohol bracelet could detect where alcohol consumption took place. Murke responded with no, to which Mr. Jobb added, “It could be in a car, yes?”
The second witness, Matthew Lema, is a project manager from SCRAM, the alcohol monitoring service utilized for drunk driving and DUIs in California. SCRAM’s service is aimed to aid courts and probation. Mr. Jobb inquired about Lema’s training, to which Lema responded that he is trained on two levels: knowing how to put the SCRAM bracelet on an individual (previously referred to as “alcohol bracelet”), and knowing how to interpret data on graphs that reflect the monitoring of the SCRAM bracelet. Essentially, Lema described that the bracelet operates by “transdermal science,” meaning it detects alcohol by monitoring the condition of the skin. Every 30 minutes, the SCRAM bracelet does a test, in which it checks for alcohol consumption, condition of the device (whether or not it has been tampered with), and temperature (to see if it was removed somehow by the client). A confirmed violation that alerts the probation office needs to meet six criteria. These criteria include the body’s absorption of alcohol and the body’s elimination of alcohol.
Additionally, Lema stated that the alcohol violation, proving Ralston consumed alcohol, is depicted in a SCRAM graph. He also shared that he generated Ralston’s graph, and that the findings of the graph conclude that Ralston indeed consumed alcohol.
In cross-examination by defense attorney Van Zandt, Lema was asked to further clarify the findings of the SCRAM graph, and he stated that the graph confirmed tamper (this can also happen by just sleeping on the device, it does not mean the defendant actually attempted to remove the device), but one cannot say that alcohol was consumed. He explained how cologne, or even lotion, can be picked up by the bracelet – therefore there is no way of making a final conclusion.
During redirect, prosecuting attorney Jobb asked if the patterns on the graph can be similar in reflecting a situation in which an individual knowingly takes small sips of alcohol, and takes breaks in between to allow for absorption. Lema confirmed that this scenario is highly plausible.
The court found Ralston to have violated his SCRAM supervised OR (own recognizance). He could not be put back into OR because, according to Judge Reed, “he demonstrated he could not be trusted.”
Bail was set to $95,000, citing that was the original bail for Ralston’s DUI in the past, and that he was still a threat to society.
A jury trial is set to begin July 9, 2018.