Cost and Appropriateness of SCRAM-Alcohol Monitor Debated in Yolo Cases


By Anna Kristina Moseidjord

WOODLAND, CA – The role of alcohol monitors, formally called SCRAM devices in different DUI (driving under influence) cases was the subject of debate this Thursday morning in Yolo County Superior Court.

One case involved an incident in which Cecilia Hightower allegedly drove her car through a round-a-bout in West Sacramento, crashing on the far side.

In a previous court hearing, Hightower had been assigned a SCRAM device, which would monitor her alcohol level every 30 minutes. During Thursday’s hearing, it was argued ordering such a device was excessive, given the circumstances.

Deputy Public Defender Earl Kennedy argued the defendant’s use of a wheelchair, and that neither she nor anyone else in her house had a car, made a SCRAM device unreasonable, adding “There are just less restrictive means that would ensure public safety in this case,” he said.

Kennedy detailed Hightower’s injuries, which include a fractured L1 Vertebrae, a broken knee, and torn ligament in her left shoulder, and noted her reliance on her 16-year-old son and DoorDash for basic daily tasks.

Such limitations, he argued, meant probation strategies like random testing would be sufficient. He pointed out that random testing is the norm for drug-related DUIs.

The prosecutor disagreed with Kennedy, arguing an alcohol monitor was, in fact, a necessity in this case. He pointed to Hightower’s two prior DUI convictions and the “extremely aggravated” nature of the accident, adding “it is my opinion that alcohol is a substantial problem in her life.”

Ultimately, Judge Tom Dyer ruled in favor of requiring an alcohol monitor, saying he was balancing the specific circumstances of the case with his concerns for public safety, noting “I’m really concerned about what’s going on with alcohol, cars, and public safety here.”

However, alcohol monitors emerged again as a topic of contention later in the same court session, as a different DUI defendant raised the high cost of having a SCRAM device as an issue.

Deputy Public Defender Wendy Casas said one 18-year-old defendant was getting help from his parents to make the payments for the ankle alcohol monitor he had been ordered.

In response, Judge Dyer said “I thought it was income based, these SCRAM devices.”

Casas countered the minimum amount a defendant will be ordered to pay for an alcohol monitor is $15 a day, which adds up to about $450 a month, noting if the defendant is ordered to have an ankle monitor, “he’s out of pocket nearly $500 a month, which is a lot of money for an average person.”


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