Electronic Monitoring As An Alternative To Jail

Electronic monitoring, also known as SEC or Supervised Electronic Confinement, is an alternative to serving time in jail by allowing individuals to live at home but permitting the offenders to venture out of the residence to authorized locations and at certain pre-approved times while being monitored via an electronic ankle bracelet that tracks the offenders movements and location.

Electronic Monitoring Overview

Participants are routinely allowed to go to work, school, attend counseling or other court-mandated programs or complete community service obligations that were imposed as a condition of their sentence, probation or parole. You may be allowed to go to a gym or grocery store as well on certain days and times and participate in other pre-approved and scheduled activities.

The monitoring is set up with a unit that is installed in the home that coordinates with a phone line or commercial cellular network and to a bracelet that is attached to your ankle. You are  responsible for the costs of the bracelet and monitoring unit though low income individuals may pay lower amounts according to their ability to pay.

Participants are confined to a residence that may include an outside area. If you happen to venture outside of the perimeter area without prior authorization, the device will send a signal to a monitoring agency that contacts your probation officer or law enforcement.

Data on your location is transmitted on a 24-hour basis. There is also a GPS system that uses satellites to track your location. Any of these systems can detect tampering and curfew violations or if you are in an excluded area.

Who is Eligible to Get Electronic Monitoring?

In most instances, the SEC program is for non-violent offenders. Persons who have a mental impairment or a physical disability may also qualify. You are eligible if you meet these criteria:

  • You are at low risk for committing other offenses
  • You were sentenced to county jail and not state prison
  • You did not previously serve time in state prison
  • You have a residence in or near the county where you were convicted
  • There is a phone at the residence
  • You agree to conditions of your home confinement
  • You are able to pay for the costs associated with the device, although low income or indigent offenders are not barred from electronic monitoring on cost alone

There is also a GPS tracking system for offenders who are high-risk parolees such as registered sex offenders and gang members.

Different Types of Electronic Monitoring Instruments Used in California

There are different types of instruments used for home monitoring:

Home Detention Monitoring

This is the most typical type used. As described above, the offender is given an ankle bracelet that is to be worn continuously. An electronic unit is installed in the home that uses a commercial cellular network to send signals on a 24-hour basis to an agency that monitors your movement.


SCRAM is an acronym for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring device. Unlike the usual home monitoring device that keeps track of your whereabouts, this device tracks your alcohol intake. It is also an ankle bracelet that only monitors alcohol consumption through the skin or transdermal monitoring. If any alcohol at all is detected, it sends a signal to the monitoring agency and then to court personnel.

Sheriff deputies are usually the law officers who will come to your home once the court has alerted them. You may be administered a PBT or preliminary breath test to detect the presence of alcohol in your breath or a breathalyzer to verify the SCRAM alert.

This is a device that a court may order for those convicted of DUI but is generally reserved for repeat DUI offenders as either an alternative to jail or imposed as a condition of probation. Persons on a SCRAM device are generally not barred from going anywhere at any time just so long as they do not consume any alcohol.

Home Detention and SCRAM

Offenders who are restricted as to where they may go during particular days or hours and who are barred from consuming any alcohol may have the transdermal monitoring device attached to their ankle and have it coordinated with a home unit to track their location.

Drug Patches

Drug patches are not technically electronic monitoring but are designed to detect whether the user has taken a particular drug. It is for those persons convicted of drug crimes who have been ordered to wear these patches on their arms or other areas of their body. These patches can detect the presence of:

  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamines
  • Heroin
  • PCP
  • Cocaine

The patch collects your sweat and absorbs the metabolite from the drug. Patches are replaced weekly but some may be worn up from 10 to 14 days at any one time.

GPS Tracking

GPS tracking, or global positioning system, is used for high risk offenders who have committed sex crimes or gang-related offenses. The system communicates with satellites to determine the offender’s exact location at all times. It is also referred to as EID or electronic in-home detention program for parolees who need enhanced supervision

Often, these offenders are restricted by curfews and to staying away from schools, parks or other specific locations. Curfews can be during the day or night at which times the offender may not leave the residence.

Conditions of Electronic Monitoring

Persons on electronic monitoring are subject to certain conditions:

  • Curfew–times within which the offender must remain in the residence; It may be during daylight hours or at night
  • Random drug testing–sheriff’s deputies can appear at your home at any time to test you for drugs or alcohol
  • Random search of your residence or within the perimeter of your home confinement
  • Periodic meetings with parole or probation officer
  • Restrictions on places you may go, the hours you are allowed outside the residence and with persons with whom you may have contact

You may be allowed to do and go to certain places during certain times:

  • Work or school
  • Medical appointments
  • Counseling and other court-mandated programs
  • Food shopping if necessary
  • Family obligations

Anytime a participant is detected to be in an excluded area or is not at the residence within the prescribed time, a notification is sent to the monitoring agency who alerts the probation office or parole agent. Participants who find that they may be late or delayed in returning to the residence are advised to call their probation officer or parole agent immediately.

Electronic Monitoring for Individuals on Parole

Parolees are convicted felons who have been released from prison. They are required to regularly report to their parole officers and to adhere to the conditions of their parole. For certain gang members or sex offenders who are deemed to be at high risk of re-offending, GPS tracking is a method for parole officers to ensure that these individuals stay within certain areas and away from others. These devices can map out these areas so that the monitoring agency can easily see where the offender is at all times.

California has a High-Risk Gang Offender GPS Monitoring Program for parolees considered to be especially high risk. To be high risk, you must meet at least one of these criteria:

  • Validated as a prison gang member or associate
  • Assigned a special condition of parole to refrain from any association with a street or prison gang member
  • Any previous involvement in gang activities

If a person meets any of these, then the parole officer and parole unit supervisor meet to determine whether the GPS monitoring program is appropriate

Under this intensive program, GPS and cellular technology is used to provide the parole officer with daily summary reports where the parole agent can view areas where the parolee ventured and if there was recorded any suspicious activity such as tampering or unusual movements. The agent can also send a signal to the parolee advising him or her of the immediate need to contact the agent.

The GPS system sets up inclusion zones where the parolee is allowed to be at certain times and exclusion zones. If there is a violation, an immediate alert notification is triggered.

Along with the monitoring device, the parolee is advised that he or she is required to meet with the parole agent on a personal basis a minimum number of times each month, that the agent will be meeting with the parolee’s family members and acquaintances each month, that there will be several random drug tests per month, and that a case review will be conducted a minimum number of times each year.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Do Ankle Monitors Cost?

They generally cost from $12 to $15 per day for the offender. Low income offenders are not excluded if they are unable to pay. There is a sliding scale based on income and ability to pay. There is an initial installation fee that ranges from $50 to $100 or more.

Are Ankle Monitors Water-Proof?

Yes, GPS bracelets are water-proof up to 50 feet so you could swim or bathe with one. You may want to be careful when swimming or in a hot tub since the signal could be interrupted and indicate tampering that will alert the monitoring agency.

If you are allowed to swim, it will likely be for limited exercise purposes and not to spend time at the beach.

Do Ankle Monitors Detect Drugs?

There are drug patches that can detect drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. A SCRAM is an ankle device that tests sweat and detects whether you have consumed alcohol and the level of alcohol. These are separate from ankle monitors and do not track your movements.

Can I Drive To Work And School?

Your ability to drive to work or school depends on the conditions imposed on you for wearing the ankle bracelet or SCRAM. Keeping a job is important as is attending school so the court will nearly always allow you to do so.

Next Steps If You Need Help

If you have been arrested and would like to learn more about how attorneys charge.

If you want to understand why its important to have an attorney represent you.

If you would like to discuss a pending case with an attorney contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

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