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Pay to Play: SCRAM Units in Knox County DUI Cases


By: Brad Henry

I recently attended a meeting on DUI where the use of SCRAM Units was discussed.  It has been the practice of the Knox County D.A.'s Office to offer reduced sentences for defendants who can afford to wear a SCRAM Unit for a certain period of time.  For many people this has saved them from the embarrassing consequences of a DUI conviction while ensuring that they are alcohol free for their probationary period.  The problem is what happens to all the people who cannot pay for the SCRAM Unit?

A SCRAM Unit is a device that attaches to an individuals ankle using a rubber strap.  Attached to the strap is a black box approximately the size of a deck of cards.  The SCRAM Unit, once attached, is able to detect the consumption of alcohol through contact with the skin.

According to the Knox County D.A.'s office, there has been tremendous success with the use of the SCRAM Unit.  They laud its ability to keep DUI defendants alcohol free for their probationary period.  In fact, many defendants are happy to wear the SCRAM Unit because it provides them a way to show that they can abstain from alcohol and will learn from their DUI experience.

The problem is that a SCRAM Unit can be very expensive.  It is approximately $400 the first month and $300 per month afterwards for as long as you are required to wear the SCRAM Unit.  For many people the SCRAM Unit is too expensive and they are not able to take advantage of the types of plea agreements that those who can afford it can.

The SCRAM Unit is a wonderful way to monitor those charged with DUI, but people should be aware of the expense of these units ahead of time.  If you are unable to afford a SCRAM Unit you should speak to your attorney about potential alternatives that would allow you to benefit from the same negotiated outcomes as those who are able to pay.  

In the end, the Knox County D.A seems to appreciate the usefulness of the SCRAM Units, and defendants enjoy the benefit of negotiated pleas that benefit both parties.  If we can figure out a way to provide this option to everyone, regardless of their income, we would be on the way to a workable solution for many alcohol related offenses in Knox County.

If you have been charged with a DUI or attorneys are happy to speak to you about your options.  

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