Electronic Monitoring as an Alternative to Jail

In this post, I will explain how electronic home monitoring or supervised electronic confinement (SEC) works and who can receive it.

Let’s get started…

How Does Electronic Monitoring In California Work?

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 ankle1.

Where Are You Allowed to go With the Ankle Bracelet?

Participants in an electronic monitoring program are routinely allowed to do the following:

  • 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.

Are There Additional Conditions of Electronic Monitoring?

Persons on electronic monitoring are subject to certain conditions including:

  • 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

Who Pays for the Cost of Electronic Monitoring?

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.

How Much Do Ankle Monitors Cost?

They generally cost from $12 to $15 per day for the offender. There is an initial installation fee that ranges from $50 to $100 or more

There is a sliding scale based on income and ability to pay.  Low-income offenders are not excluded if they are unable to pay.

What Happens if you Leave your Designated Area?

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.

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

What Are The Different Types of Electronic Monitoring Instruments Used in California

There are a few 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 Bracelet For Alcohol Monitering

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.

What Happens if Alcohol is Detected?

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.

Electronic Monitoring for Individuals on Parole

Parolees 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 required to register under penal code 290 and 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.

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

What Information Does The Parole Officer Receive?

Under this intensive program, GPS and cellular technology are 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.

Inclusion & Exclusion Zones

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

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.


  1. Penal Code 1203.016(a) – Notwithstanding any other law, the board of supervisors of any county may authorize the correctional administrator, as defined in subdivision (h), to offer a program under which inmates committed to a county jail or other county correctional facility or granted probation, or inmates participating in a work furlough program, may voluntarily participate or involuntarily be placed in a home detention program during their sentence in lieu of confinement in the county jail or other county correctional facility or program under the auspices of the probation officer. (b) The board of supervisors, in consultation with the correctional administrator, may prescribe reasonable rules and regulations under which a home detention program may operate. As a condition of participation in the home detention program, the inmate shall give his or her consent in writing to participate in the home detention program and shall in writing agree to comply or, for involuntary participation, the inmate shall be informed in writing that he or she shall comply, with the rules and regulations of the program, including, but not limited to, the following rules: (1) The participant shall remain within the interior premises of his or her residence during the hours designated by the correctional administrator. (2) The participant shall admit any person or agent designated by the correctional administrator into his or her residence at any time for purposes of verifying the participant’s compliance with the conditions of his or her detention. (3) The participant shall agree to the use of electronic monitoring, which may include global positioning system devices or other supervising devices for the purpose of helping to verify his or her compliance with the rules and regulations of the home detention program. The devices shall not be used to eavesdrop or record any conversation, except a conversation between the participant and the person supervising the participant which is to be used solely for the purposes of voice identification. (4) The participant shall agree that the correctional administrator in charge of the county correctional facility from which the participant was released may, without further order of the court, immediately retake the person into custody to serve the balance of his or her sentence if the electronic monitoring or supervising devices are unable for any reason to properly perform their function at the designated place of home detention, if the person fails to remain within the place of home detention as stipulated in the agreement, if the person willfully fails to pay fees to the provider of electronic home detention services, as stipulated in the agreement, subsequent to the written notification of the participant that the payment has not been received and that return to custody may result, or if the person for any other reason no longer meets the established criteria under this section. A copy of the agreement shall be delivered to the participant and a copy retained by the correctional administrator. (c) Whenever the peace officer supervising a participant has reasonable cause to believe that the participant is not complying with the rules or conditions of the program, or that the electronic monitoring devices are unable to function properly in the designated place of confinement, the peace officer may, under general or specific authorization of the correctional administrator, and without a warrant of arrest, retake the person into custody to complete the remainder of the original sentence. (d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the correctional administrator to allow a person to participate in this program if it appears from the record that the person has not satisfactorily complied with reasonable rules and regulations while in custody. A person shall be eligible for participation in a home detention program only if the correctional administrator concludes that the person meets the criteria for release established under this section and that the person’s participation is consistent with any reasonable rules and regulations prescribed by the board of supervisors or the administrative policy of the correctional administrator. (1) The rules and regulations and administrative policy of the program shall be written and reviewed on an annual basis by the county board of supervisors and the correctional administrator. The rules and regulations shall be given to or made available to any participant upon request. (2) The correctional administrator, or his or her designee, shall have the sole discretionary authority to permit program participation as an alternative to physical custody. All persons referred or recommended by the court to participate in the home detention program pursuant to subdivision (e) who are denied participation or all persons removed from program participation shall be notified in writing of the specific reasons for the denial or removal. The notice of denial or removal shall include the participant’s appeal rights, as established by program administrative policy. (e) The court may recommend or refer a person to the correctional administrator for consideration for placement in the home detention program. The recommendation or referral of the court shall be given great weight in the determination of acceptance or denial. At the time of sentencing or at any time that the court deems it necessary, the court may restrict or deny the defendant’s participation in a home detention program. (f) The correctional administrator may permit home detention program participants to seek and retain employment in the community, attend psychological counseling sessions or educational or vocational training classes, or seek medical and dental assistance. Willful failure of the program participant to return to the place of home detention not later than the expiration of any period of time during which he or she is authorized to be away from the place of home detention pursuant to this section and unauthorized departures from the place of home detention are punishable as provided in Section 4532. (g) The board of supervisors may prescribe a program administrative fee to be paid by each home detention participant that shall be determined according to his or her ability to pay. Inability to pay all or a portion of the program fees shall not preclude participation in the program, and eligibility shall not be enhanced by reason of ability to pay. All program administration and supervision fees shall be administered in compliance with Section 1208.2. (h) As used in this section, “Correctional administrator” means the sheriff, probation officer, or director of the county department of corrections. (i) Notwithstanding any other law, the police department of a city where an office is located to which persons on an electronic monitoring program report may request the county correctional administrator to provide information concerning those persons. This information shall be limited to the name, address, date of birth, offense committed by the home detainee, and if available, at the discretion of the supervising agency and solely for investigatory purposes, current and historical GPS coordinates of the home detainee. A law enforcement department that does not have the primary responsibility to supervise participants in the electronic monitoring program that receives information pursuant to this subdivision shall not use the information to conduct enforcement actions based on administrative violations of the home detention program. A law enforcement department that has knowledge that the subject in a criminal investigation is a participant in an electronic monitoring program shall make reasonable efforts to notify the supervising agency prior to serving a warrant or taking any law enforcement action against a participant in an electronic monitoring program. (j) It is the intent of the Legislature that home detention programs established under this section maintain the highest public confidence, credibility, and public safety. In the furtherance of these standards, the following shall apply: (1) The correctional administrator, with the approval of the board of supervisors, may administer a home detention program pursuant to written contracts with appropriate public or private agencies or entities to provide specified program services. No public or private agency or entity may operate a home detention program in any county without a written contract with that county’s correctional administrator. However, this does not apply to the use of electronic monitoring by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. No public or private agency or entity entering into a contract may itself employ any person who is in the home detention program. (2) Program acceptance shall not circumvent the normal booking process for sentenced offenders. All home detention program participants shall be supervised. (3)(A) All privately operated home detention programs shall be under the jurisdiction of, and subject to the terms and conditions of the contract entered into with, the correctional administrator.(B) Each contract shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:(i) A provision whereby the private agency or entity agrees to operate in compliance with any available standards promulgated by state correctional agencies and bodies, including the Corrections Standards Authority, and all statutory provisions and mandates, state and county, as appropriate and applicable to the operation of home detention programs and the supervision of sentenced offenders in a home detention program.(ii) A provision that clearly defines areas of respective responsibility and liability of the county and the private agency or entity.(iii) A provision that requires the private agency or entity to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility, submitted and approved by the board of supervisors, in amounts and under conditions sufficient to fully indemnify the county for reasonably foreseeable public liability, including legal defense costs, that may arise from, or be proximately caused by, acts or omissions of the contractor. The contract shall provide for annual review by the correctional administrator to ensure compliance with requirements set by the board of supervisors and for adjustment of the financial responsibility requirements if warranted by caseload changes or other factors.(iv) A provision that requires the private agency or entity to provide evidence of financial responsibility, such as certificates of insurance or copies of insurance policies, prior to commencing any operations pursuant to the contract or at any time requested by the board of supervisors or correctional administrator.(v) A provision that permits the correctional administrator to immediately terminate the contract with a private agency or entity at any time that the contractor fails to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility.(C) All privately operated home detention programs shall comply with all appropriate, applicable ordinances and regulations specified in subdivision (a) of Section 1208.(D) The board of supervisors, the correctional administrator, and the designee of the correctional administrator shall comply with Section 1090 of the Government Code in the consideration, making, and execution of contracts pursuant to this section.(E) The failure of the private agency or entity to comply with statutory provisions and requirements or with the standards established by the contract and with the correctional administrator may be sufficient cause to terminate the contract.(F) Upon the discovery that a private agency or entity with whom there is a contract is not in compliance pursuant to this paragraph, the correctional administrator shall give 60 days’ notice to the director of the private agency or entity that the contract may be canceled if the specified deficiencies are not corrected.(G) Shorter notice may be given or the contract may be canceled without notice whenever a serious threat to public safety is present because the private agency or entity has failed to comply with this section.(k) For purposes of this section, “evidence of financial responsibility” may include, but is not limited to, certified copies of any of the following:(1) A current liability insurance policy.(2) A current errors and omissions insurance policy.(3) A surety bond. 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