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Understanding Alcohol Monitoring Tags and Their Function in the United Kingdom

by | Jan 5, 2024 | Articles, Crime, Driving Offence Advice

Alcohol monitoring tags have become an integral part of efforts to address alcohol-related offences in the United Kingdom. These electronic devices are designed to monitor an individual’s alcohol consumption, providing authorities with a tool to manage and rehabilitate those who may pose a risk due to alcohol misuse. In this article, we’ll delve into what alcohol monitoring tags are and explore how they function within the legal and rehabilitation frameworks of the UK.

What is an Alcohol Monitoring Tag

An alcohol monitoring tag is a wearable electronic device that tracks an individual’s alcohol intake It operates by measuring the wearer’s sweat for traces of alcohol, offering a non-invasive method to monitor their drinking habits, where tags are often employed as part of a community – based sentencing program or as a condition of bail, or for individuals released on licence after serving a period in custody for an alcohol-related offence.

Alcohol tracking devices were first launched in Wales in October 2020 and eventually in England in March 2021.

The electronic device is used to address the following issues:

  • Reduce re-offending, particularly in cases where alcohol has played a part in the offence
  • Reduce the number of prison sentences imposed
Scram Alcohol Monitoring Tag

Example of an alcohol monitoring tag (above).

How Alcohol Monitoring Tags Work:

Alcohol monitoring tags work 24 hours a day; they are designed to detect alcohol abuse by using transdermal testing of sweat on the skin to identify traces of alcohol every 30 minutes.

  1. Sweat-based Alcohol Detection: Alcohol monitoring tags use transdermal alcohol testing technology, which relies on the principle that alcohol is excreted through the skin in the form of sweat. The tag contains sensors that continuously analyse the wearer’s sweat for the presence of alcohol metabolites. This provides a real-time and accurate representation of the individual’s alcohol consumption.
  2. Data Transmission: The collected data is transmitted to a monitoring system via a secure connection. This allows authorities such as probation officers and the police to remotely access and review the individual’s alcohol consumption patterns. The ability to monitor in real-time enhances the effectiveness of supervision and intervention.

In the event of any alcohol being detected or in circumstances where the device is tampered with by the wearer, an alert via radio frequency is immediately sent to the police. Therefore, such a breach of the device can result in financial penalties being imposed, the extension of time to wear the alcohol monitoring tag as well as a prolonged period of work with the probation service or a recall to prison especially if wearing the tag and adhering to an abstinence from alcohol is part of the licence conditions.

Wearers of the alcohol monitoring tag are also given instructions they must adhere to when they have a device fitted. These include not removing or interfering with the device in any way and ensuring the battery is charged at all times as failure to do so can be considered as device tampering.

Whilst the concept of imposing a condition for a defendant to wear an alcohol monitoring tag appears to assist with the process of reducing alcohol-related offending behaviour, it is not without issues and problems.

The device has a disadvantage in circumstances where false positives can occur. Whilst uncommon, there may be instances where a device can produce a false positive when a user has:

  • Used a mouthwash or breath spray which contains alcohol as an ingredient
  • Use of antiperspirant or perfume which contains alcohol
  • Alcohol spilt over the alcohol monitoring device
  • Coming into contact with chemicals containing alcohol

The impact of false positives can lead to further consequences for the wearer of the devices such as being taken back to Court for breach and as a result being given a financial penalty, community service or even a custodial sentence, none of which will be deserved in the circumstances. It is therefore imperative users proceed with care during the period they are wearing a device and to be able to provide evidence where it is deemed to fit to avoid any unnecessary consequences.

Whilst false positives can occur in circumstances where a wearer of the device has not consumed any alcohol per se but has been around a substance containing alcohol, the same cannot be said for illicit drugs. Unfortunately, alcohol testing devices are not able to detect other substances, and this can be problematic, leading users to experiment with illicit drugs to replace alcohol. Developing a cross addiction is more likely to occur in circumstances where an enforced abstinence is in place, this can therefore delay resolving the underlying addiction especially when illegal drugs replace alcohol as a pre-existing coping mechanism.

 

Legal Framework in the United Kingdom

Alcohol monitoring tags are utilised within the United Kingdom’s legal system as a proactive measure to prevent further alcohol–related offences and promote rehabilitation. They are often imposed as part of a Community Order or a Suspended Sentence order, this is where an individual serves their sentence in the community and is required to comply with certain conditions rather than serving a custodial sentence. Unfortunately, those achieving abstinence because of a court order may do so with little motivation. Nevertheless, the following forms of sentence can be imposed to achieve abstinence on a long-term basis.

  • Community Order: These orders are community-based sentences that involve a period of unpaid work hours as well as additional requirements such as attending rehabilitation programmes, wearing an alcohol monitoring tag and in some cases, an electronically monitored tag to monitor an individual’s whereabouts and ensure they are indoors at a designated address during a specific time frame. Such orders aim to address the root cause of offending behaviour whilst also maintaining a focus on community safety.
  • Suspended Sentence Order: In cases where a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate but not immediately imposed, the Court may issue a Suspended Sentence Order. This involves a period of supervision and compliance with specified conditions, in the same way, a Community Order operates and may also include wearing an alcohol monitoring tag. However, where a Suspended Sentence Order is concerned, failure to adhere to the conditions may result in the activation of the custodial sentence.

 

Effectiveness and Rehabilitation

Alcohol monitoring tags play a crucial role in promoting rehabilitation by fostering a sense of accountability and supporting individuals in addressing their alcohol misuse.

The real-time monitoring and capability allow for swift intervention in cases of non-compliance or escalating alcohol consumption. Moreover, it enables authorities to tailor rehabilitation programs to the individual’s specific needs.

Alcohol monitoring tags do represent a significant advancement in the United Kingdom’s approach to addressing alcohol-related offences. By combining technology with legal frameworks and rehabilitation initiatives, these devices contribute to the overarching goal of enhancing public safety while providing individuals with opportunities for positive behavioural change. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the effectiveness of alcohol monitoring tags in fostering a society that prioritises rehabilitation and support for those dealing with alcohol-related challenges.

 

Do you require legal advice &/or representation?

If you are facing a driving offence prosecution and require expert legal representation at Court, call our lawyers on 0330 818 9843 or complete our Contact Form.

Understanding Alcohol Monitoring Tags and Their Function in the United Kingdom sobriety tags

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