The Many Uses of Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM)

By Nate Gay, Executive Vice President, Reliant Monitoring Services

What is CAM and How Does It Monitor Alcohol?

The most widely used CAM bracelet (which is actually worn on the ankle and manufactured by SCRAM Systems), uses transdermal analysis, which means it samples and tests the insensible perspiration that is always on your skin. Any time you consume an alcoholic beverage about one percent of your drink of choice is expelled through your skin. A pump inside the bracelet takes in a sample every 30 minutes. Alcoholic beverages contain ethyl alcohol (ethanol) therefore the presence of ethanol consistent with parameters for established absorption and elimination rates is an indicator of a confirmed consumption. In addition to checking for alcohol, the bracelet will also check every 30 minutes utilizing an infrared beam to see if you have tried to defeat or tamper with the device by blocking its intake ports. Confirmed tampers and obviously confirmed alcohol consumptions are serious violations and could result in court action.

Criminal Justice and Treatment Applications

The use of continuous alcohol monitoring in a criminal justice setting can be during both pre-trial and post-trial supervision. A requirement to wear the CAM bracelet is generally a result of a magistrate’s or judge’s order to place a defendant/offender in a supervision program. Examples of supervision programs include DWI, Drug, and Domestic Violence specialty courts. Offender re-entry programs also utilize CAM as an effective assessment tool for parolees who are subject to intensive supervision upon their release from prison.

While CAM utilization may be ordered by the Court, many times (especially in the pre-trial stage) defendants may opt to use CAM before trial to demonstrate to the Court that they have taken their offense and their alcohol misuse seriously and are making a good faith effort to address that problem. CAM can provide defendants with an evidence-based way to demonstrate their sobriety to the Court. Demonstration of sobriety is particularly important when individuals are seeking the restoration of their driving privileges.


Continuous Alcohol Monitoring Installation

Civil Domestic and Child Custody Applications

Family Courts and judicial officials having jurisdiction in civil domestic or child custody cases may order the utilization of continuous alcohol monitoring to measure or enforce a spouse’s or parent’s sobriety. A CAM bracelet is sometimes also used in an attempt to assess the perceived level of alcohol abuse/dependence problem. In lieu of a continuous alcohol monitoring requirement, a Family Court may require periodic remote alcohol breath testing utilizing a handheld device with testing occurring on a pre-determined schedule. This remote alcohol monitoring is usually less expensive than continuous monitoring but may not satisfy jurisdictional requirements set forth by the courts or state legislatures.


On occasion individuals will see the value in initiating or continuing to utilize alcohol monitoring as a means to aid them in their sobriety. The CAM device can “awaken” compliant participants and help lift the “fog” of alcohol abuse thereby motivating them to seek other treatment options in the community. They are able to reconnect with estranged family members and develop support relationships that hopefully provide a foundation for continued sobriety and overall well-being. These individuals, initially, may have been ordered to wear a CAM device but now see it as an empowering tool to help put them on a positive path in their daily lives.

CAM Costs and Monitoring Fees?

CAM, like many electronic monitoring programs, is usually a defendant/offender pay model. The equipment utilized in continuous alcohol monitoring is expensive so care must be taken to avoid damage or misuse of the components. Pre-paid monitoring fees range from $10-$12 per day. At the time the device is installed there is a one-time installation cost between $50 and $75. Some providers may give discounts for installations taking place at their offices. The aforementioned fees usually cover any needed technical support, automated data uploads and progress report preparation. There are no dumb questions when seeking a provider, so do not hesitate to make inquiries before you commit to this expensive but effective alcohol monitoring tool. Please keep in mind that failure to keep your alcohol use in check or failure to maintain sobriety will likely result in an even more costly proposition both emotionally and financially.

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