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4 Common Ways to Monitor DUI Offenders

Guardian Interlock Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As part of a DUI offender’s bond or probation, a court may require a person to ne monitored for alcohol or drugs.  The four most common types of monitoring systems are (in no particular order): Transdermal Devices, Ignition Interlock Devices, Portable Breath Testing Devices, and Drug Sweat Patches (to test for drugs).  These methods are also excellent ways to establish a “track record” to prove the defendant is not consuming alcohol even if not required by a court.  For instance, some of my clients have used all of these at one time or another to help convince prosecutors to keep a DUI conviction off my clients’ records, or otherwise mitigate the consequences of a related arrest.  Let’s review these methods.

A transdermal device, e.g., a SCRAM device, is usually secured around the person’s ankle may is not removed except by an authorized representative of the court, although it may be cut off in case of an emergency. These devices measure the amount of alcohol in one’s body by periodically (several times an hour) taking an air sample from around the ankle and converting the amount of alcohol in one’s perspiration to blood alcohol. The results are then transmitted wirelessly via the internet to a probation officer or other law-enforcement authority. The disadvantage of this type of device is that it is expensive, bulky, sometimes noisy, uncomfortable, and is somewhat visible.  Review my prior article, or search this website for other articles about this device.

An ignition interlock device (IID) prevents a driver from starting a vehicle without first blowing into a breath analyzing device and producing a negative reading, or at least one below a cut-off level, e.g., .02%. The driver is then required to blow into the device periodically (randomly) to ensure the driver is not drinking while driving.  Most states now require a photograph of the defendant to be taken when the device is used.

A portable breath alcohol testing device is geared for remote individual use. Newer devices generally use fuel cell technology that works in conjunction  with a smartphone to store and later transmit the results to the manufacturer. One example of such a device is the iBAC. The defendant must blow into the device several times a day in order to establish sobriety. A photograph of the defendant and the GPS location at the time the sample is provided is generally recorded as part of the test.

The drug sweat patch is geared to identify persons using intoxicating drugs other than alcohol.  It is designed to retain evidence of drug use over an extended period of time. “… Drugs excreted through sweat because of drug use at any time during the wearing of the patch will be collected, retained, and detected during analysis. If a patch were worn for 7 days, for example, it might be positive because of drug use 24 to 48 hours prior to the application of the sweat patch, or by drug use on Day 6 — 24 – 48 hours before the patch was removed, or both. … Drugs and drug metabolites are excreted through bodily fluids over the course of about a 48 – 72 hour period.”  See PharmChek® Drugs of Abuse Sweat Patch, Technical Questions & Answers (May 2017).  The disadvantage of these sweat patches is that they are expensive and must be changed about every week, by an authorized person who then must forward the used patch to a laboratory for analysis.

Of course, there are other ways a person could be monitored.  Although not used on a regular basis, defendants may be monitored by testing their urine, hair, saliva, breath, and perspiration though tattoos and touch sensors.

About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants.  Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve has served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.  Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.

He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 8th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen).  Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions.  He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and six foreign countries.  After being named a Fulbright Scholar, Steve was honored to teach as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Latvia Law School in the capital city of Riga, Latvia during the Spring Semester of 2019.  If you would like to contact the author, please visit his website at



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Steve Oberman

Steve Oberman

Since graduating from the University of Tennessee Law School in 1980, Mr. Oberman has become established as a national authority on the intricacies of DUI defense law. Steve is a former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, co-author of a national treatise ("Drunk Driving Defense" published by Aspen/Wolters-Kluwer), and author of "DUI: The Crime and Consequences in Tennessee" (published by Thomson-Reuters/West). He has taught thousands of lawyers, judges, and members of the general public about the intricacies of this crime. Steve was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach American Criminal Law and American Trial Advocacy at the University of Latvia School of Law in 2019; in 2023 taught for a semester as a visiting professor at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary; and as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Law in 2024. Steve has also presented at a number of judicial conferences in the United States and Canada as well as for law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Czech Republic Police Academy. As a Tennessee DUI attorney, Mr. Oberman has successfully defended over two thousand clients charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs. In 2006, Mr. Oberman became the first DUI lawyer in Tennessee to be recognized by the National College for DUI Defense as a Board Certified Specialist in the area of DUI Defense law.

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