DUI Defendant Swears It Was Vanilla in Mouth, Not Booze – Judge Doesn’t Believe Him, Calls It ‘Fraud,’ Orders Him to Jail

By Stacie Guevara

SACRAMENTO, CA – Defendant Timothy Adams was called to court here in Sacramento County Superior Court after a device he was wearing detected alcohol in his system, a violation of his DUI/driving under the influence probation.

But the defendant contested it, swearing he did not consume any alcohol—he had only put some vanilla in his mouth and quickly spat it out.

A SCRAM0—Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor—bracelet is worn on the ankle by DUI offenders and it tests sweat for the offender’s blood alcohol content.

Vanilla contains alcohol, and Adams was claiming that was what caused the SCRAM bracelet to detect alcohol in his system.

Adams appeared before Judge Patrick Marlette in Dept. 63, represented by attorney Phillip Couzens.

In July 2019, Adams was found driving on a license suspended because of a prior DUI, resulting in injuries of bystanders.

Attorney Couzens said Adams got his fingernails tested for metabolites of alcohol, insisted he did not drink anything and he was unaware of any alcohol he may have consumed.

This test was done Aug. 3 and Couzens said these tests are supposed to be determinative of whether alcohol was actually imbibed at that time, and the only reason they contested it was because the SCRAM device has been known to be inaccurate on occasion.

Couzens added they did not yet have the results and did not know when the results were going to be ready. Because of this, he asked Judge Marlette for postponement until the results came back so they could show there was no alcohol imbibed by his client.

Deputy District Attorney Heather Phillips then asked Couzens several questions about the date and timing of the test, wondering if the time gap between the time of the violation and when the victim took the test was too long.

She asked if it was testing whether Adams had alcohol in his system at the time of the test, and Couzens said that was what he was told.

Couzens added that the initial information from the SCRAM bracelet was indicated on July 12, and Phillips said, “I don’t understand how a test done on Aug. 3 is indicative of whether or not he had alcohol in his system on July 12.”

Couzens responded with, “Because alcohol is metabolized, like other things you eat or imbibe, that it would show up in his nails, and they could tell within a certain amount of time. That’s all I can tell you. I’m not a scientist.”

Judge Marlette then chimed in, saying he had heard marijuana could show up in somebody’s hair, so it made sense to him that he could equate hair with fingernails.

“Things that are in your body could show up there, but that is far from any kind of proof or even a rebuttal for the SCRAM device, which frankly, what we heard from Mr. Adams, was that he had tasted some vanilla and quickly spit it out,” Judge Marlette said.

Judge Marlette explained the SCRAM report showed a very distinct pattern of it going up by 0.02 percent in the first hour, another point 0.02 percent in the second hour, then there was a drop off, which may be because the SCRAM only samples about every 30 minutes. He said the pattern continued and then burned off, which was the “classical driving absorption.”

“I see no reason to doubt this report, and frankly, I’m offended by Mr. Adams attempting to…defraud the court,” Judge Marlette said.

The judge said if Adams had some vanilla and then spat it out, two things would have happened, if it showed up at all. He said it would not show up to that extent.

Judge Marlette explained the alcohol in the vanilla, or in anything else, would have to be completely absorbed, go through the system and emerge as perspiration on the skin, which is what the SCRAM device registers.

“It’s the court’s opinion Mr. Adams was simply lying and misdirecting the court on this,” Judge Marlette said.

Judge Marlette told Adams he had very serious allegations of injuring people while driving under the influence and said, “And for that reason, we gave you the SCRAM. Because in this court’s experience, driving under the influence of alcohol as in these charges is dangerous.

“We gave you a job, and you couldn’t do it, and maybe that is a problem. Maybe alcoholism is something that cannot be overcome. But the protection of the community was the purpose of the SCRAM device, so I’m going to take you into custody today, Mr. Adams, and hold you until we finish this case,” Judge Marlette said.

The preliminary hearing is Sept. 10.

About The Author

Stacie Guevara (she/her) is a fourth-year at UC Davis majoring in Communication and minoring in Professional Writing. She is from the San Francisco Bay Area and is interested in going into journalism.

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