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Continuous Alcohol Monitoring

Continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) technology (also referred to as transdermal alcohol monitoring) is designed to monitor alcohol consumption among offenders who consume alcohol and it is a common sanction applied to drunk drivers.

This device is usually an ankle bracelet that monitors and measures alcohol consumption 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Thus, it allows courts or other supervision authorities to determine whether offenders are compliant with abstinence orders.

Unlike an interlock, CAM does not prevent an individual from driving after consuming alcohol. The transdermal readings accurately reflect BACs, but there is a delay due to the process of absorption and elimination of alcohol from the body. As a result, this technology is frequently utilized to monitor drinking behavior and is often used in conjunction with or as a supplement to the alcohol interlock.

There is a considerable body of literature that has demonstrated the effectiveness of CAM technology. For example, a Michigan Department of Corrections study found that the device reliably detected drinking episodes throughout a 24-hour period. Offenders also reported that the device was a deterrent and a preferred method of alcohol testing because it allowed them to remain in the community and maintain work and family commitments.

Other studies have found that the device is effective while worn and most effective with repeat DUI offenders (those with two or more convictions). Statistics from the 24/7 Sobriety Program in South Dakota also reveal a high rate of compliance among DUI offenders who are required to use CAM.

Finally, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study that examined programs that utilize transdermal alcohol monitoring found:

  • Transdermal monitoring is generally effective in deterring offenders from drinking alcohol.
  • Instances of non-compliance are identified and reported to the appropriate supervision authority in a timely manner.
  • Transdermal monitoring helps to enforce abstinence orders.
  • The technology is more effective for monitoring drinking behavior than random testing.
  • The technology is a viable alternative to incarceration that can reduce the number of visits to case managers and testing appointments. supports the use of technologies such as alcohol interlocks and continuous alcohol monitoring for DUI offenders. While we recognize that these devices are effective tools, we recommend that they be utilized in conjunction with assessment and appropriate treatment interventions that target individual risk and needs. In the absence of treatment, the underlying causes of offending (such as alcohol abuse or mental health issues) are not addressed and recidivism is likely to occur once the use of the technology ceases. Read our complete policy position here.

Additional resources:

Continuous Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring: A Primer for Criminal Justice Professionals (TIRF)

Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring Case Studies (NHTSA)