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DUI Defendant Says Ankle Bracelet Is Illegal

•  Breaking Legal News     updated  2008/05/07 08:54

The Apache Junction court unconstitutionally forces people facing drunken driving charges to wear a blood-alcohol-testing ankle bracelet at a cost of  $360 a month, coercively inducing them to plead guilty, as the cost of their pre-trial release can be greater than the fine they face if convicted, a woman claims in Pinal County Court.

Barbara Hornbeck raises several claims in challenging the constitutionality of the Apache Junction Justice of the Peace's requiring DUI defendants to wear the SCRAM ankle bracelet as a condition of release. She says she complied with the order though it is "unreasonable, punitive, coercive and illegal."

She claims that the issues she raises are of first impression in Arizona courts.

The SCRAM bracelet allegedly measures blood alcohol content transdermally. People who wear it are ordered to be within 10 feet of a telephone and special modem for 45 minutes a day, so the modem can transmit information to the SCRAM computer.

Hornbeck claims that the high cost of the bracelet - $360 a month plus a $50 installation fee - is illegal. "What better way to control one's docket than to impose a release condition so Draconian that every defendant is immediately forced to plead guilty?" the complaint states.

She claims that the court requires defendants to get the SCRAM bracelet "from one supplier, and this monopoly may reveal why the cost is so very high: $360 a month, plus a $50 installation fee."

She claims the $360 monthly fee violation Art. 2 §24 of the Arizona Constitution, which states that "in no instance shall any accused person before final judgment be compelled to advance money or fees to secure the rights herein guaranteed."

She adds: "Judge may order defendants not to drink to excess, and perhaps not even drink at all, but ordering them to pay nearly $400 pr month while awaiting trial is unconstitutional."

She claims forced wearing of the bracelet violates Arizona's criminal procedure rule 7.2(a) regarding "the least onerous condition" of pre-trial release.

She claims imposing the condition of an interlock on her car, at a cost of $75 per month, would be less onerous and also would prevent her, and others, from driving drunk, which SCRAM bracelets do not do. She claims that requiring an interlock device would be unconstitutional too, but cheaper and more effective.

She claims that forced wearing of the SCRAM bracelet is an unconstitutional pre-trial punishment.

And she claims that "Requiring her to wear an electronic box on her leg, in full view of her fellow employees, and worse yet her boss, is pure punishment, as she is "a professional woman who works in an office and wears business suits." She claims this unconstitutionally punishes women more harshly than men, as men who wear the "leg iron" may cover it up with loosely fitting pants, but women's pants are tighter, and she can't do it.

She asks that the Pinal Superior Court "remand the case with instructions to vacate the SCRAM requirement, and order the refund of the money the petitioner has spent to comply with it."

She is represented by Neal Bassett.

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