COURT WATCH: Defense Line of Questioning Raises Uncertainty of SCRAM Device Reliability


By Yenah Lee

WOODLAND, CA – Private defense attorney Joshua Kaizuka’s line of questioning this week in Yolo County Superior Court raised uncertainty about the reliability of the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM) device during his client’s trial this week for allegedly violating her probation requirements on the last six days.

In the end, the judge—almost begrudgingly—sided with the prosecution, but Kaizuka managed to put a lot of doubt into how SCRAM works.

The accused was assigned to a SCRAM device after a driving under the influence/DUI charge from last year. She was given the device Dec. 2022 and had it removed March 6, 2023.

The accused was recorded as violating her probation requirements during the last six days of her probation, according to the charges, and was marked for alcohol consumption on the 1st, 2nd, and 5th of March and device tampering on March 3 and 4.

For the accused’s first trial session on Sept. 11, Deputy District Attorney Jane Koewler called in a probation aide to discuss her experience working with SCRAM devices and the accused.

The probation aide explained individuals who utilize SCRAM cannot come in contact with anything containing alcohol, tamper with the device, put anything in between or on top of the device, nor submerge it in water. If they do happen to do any of these things, an alert would come from the SCRAM software.

When the probation aide was asked who she receives the SCRAM reports from during her cross-examination by Kaizuka, she simply responded the team is called AMS.

“[They’re] the analysts SCRAM uses…I don’t remember what it stands for,” said the probation aide. She also did not know who they were besides their position.

The second witness called by DDA Koewler was a probation officer, who oversaw SCRAM relations. The probation officer reviewed the terms and conditions of the SCRAM with the accused and removed the device on the last day of her probation.

Defense attorney Kaizuka began his cross-examination questioning the probation officer who at SCRAM provided them with reports about the accused’s alcohol readings while wearing the device.

“I don’t know. We just get [the reports] daily from SCRAM,” responded the probation officer.

Based on the officer’s response, Kaizuka then asked if the probation officer knew if it was an individual or a computer that reviews the data before it is sent, to which the officer responded with uncertainty.

Attorney Kaizuka continued to test the probation officer’s knowledge regarding the calibration periods of SCRAM devices, whether a device is functioning properly when they receive a report, what a fuel cell is, the SCRAM protocols regarding fuel cells, or the expertise of the SCRAM experts they refer to for information and data.

The probation officer responded to all the defense’s questions stating they were “not sure” or did not know.

During re-cross, the defense’s Kaizuka addressed whether the probation officer recalled the physical appearance of the accused when she arrived to remove her SCRAM device, asking specifically if the accused had watery or red eyes or slurred speech. However, the probation officer replied that they did not remember the accused’s physical appearance.

When questioned if the probation officer asked if the accused drank alcohol on the day of her removal, the officer responded that they would’ve asked the accused if they received an alert about either alcohol consumption or tampering with the device.

Following the probation officer’s testimony, DDA Koewler called in a SCRAM representative to the stand. The representative oversees SCRAM contracts and is in charge of 1,500 cases.

For the representative’s cross-examination, Attorney Kaizuka asked whether they knew who at SCRAM analyzed the data from the device. The SCRAM representative responded that they’ve “never met them” and do not know what their training or educational background is.

Attorney Kaizuka then followed up asking whether a computer could possibly be analyzing the data, to which the representative responded that it is possible.

The final witness of the first day of trial was the accused’s father, who was called by the defense.

During his direct questioning, the accused’s father explained that since his family all worked from home, he saw his daughter every day.

The father described his relationship with his daughter to be “close-knit,” and he would be able to know whether or not she drank alcohol. Additionally, Kaizuka asked whether the father had seen his daughter drink before, to which he replied yes.

Attorney Kaizuka questioned whether the father saw the accused sneak in any alcohol during the time when she was assigned to a SCRAM device. The father responded that he did not, and that he would have known since their house has alarms, a security gate, and dogs that would react if the accused were to sneak in or out of the house.

Based on the father’s responses, Attorney Kaizuka then asked the father whether he noticed any signs of alcohol consumption from his daughter during the seven days leading up to her device removal date.

The father responded saying that he did not see any signs. He also clarified that he did interact with the accused and entered her room during the seven day period leading up to the removal date.

When asked if he smelled alcohol on his daughter on the day of her device removal date, the father responded that he did not.

In the trial’s second session on Sept. 12, the defense began its closing argument. declaring how the prosecution’s witnesses could not confirm whether a computer or person at AMS was interpreting the data they relied on.

“That alone denies my client the right to confront and cross-examine her accuser,” argued attorney Kaizuka.

Kaizuka also brought attention to the fact that probation did not follow through with the questioning and confirmation of the alerts made by the accused’s SCRAM device because the accused was not contacted by probation officers or aides during the last six days of her probation.

Defense counsel Kaizuka also argued the defense was “denied discovery for this case.”

When he requested calibration and maintenance files of his client’s device, Kaizuka said the defense was only provided a certification of the device, which was signed by an unknown individual from manufacturing whom the SCRAM representative could not name. The defense was also told to subpoena his client’s device’s maintenance records after the device was taken off.

“I don’t need to subpoena it…the burden is on the prosecution to prove that there was a violation over the past six days,” stated Kaizuka.

In her closing argument, DDA Koewler addressed defense’s argument that they were denied discovery with the lack of requested documentation. She stated the People “never had any documentation the defense spoke about.”

DDA Koewler ended closing argument asserting the People have met the preponderance of evidence where the accused violated her probation.

Although the judge did recognize the strange nature of the accused apparently and suddenly violating her probation conditions after adhering to them for the past six months, he concluded that considering all the evidence and testimonies provided in trial, the People met the preponderance of evidence.

“That’s one of the odd points of the case—for six months, [the accused] was doing fine, [but in] the last six days she had all sorts of violations. That was the troubling part of the case,” explained the judge.

The judge reinstated the accused’s grant of probation under the original terms and conditions with a modification that she serves five days in custody, and offered the accused the option to serve her time in custody at home detention or with eight hours of community service. The accused has until Oct. 20 to decide.


About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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