Electronic Monitoring Devices: Big Brother Is Watching You!

Electronic Monitoring Devices in Chicago: Big Brother is Watching You!

Our Chicago Defense Lawyers Explain Monitoring Devices

Electronic MonitoringIn the George Orwell book "1984", society has devolved into one wherein the government, through advanced surveillance techniques, keeps constant tabs on its citizenry. "Big Brother is watching! Praise Big Brother!" While seen as rather alarmist at the time it was written, many aspects of that Orwellian society have come to fruition. Security cameras, public and private, capture all of the action and record it, for use by the government or interested parties. Almost nothing we do these days goes unnoticed. Sometimes though, advancements in surveillance technology are useful, where they serve to relieve the burden on the State and private citizenry in certain aspects of our criminal justice system. This article will discuss how electronic monitoring devices are used to relieve overcrowded jails, or to allow motorists who have lost driving privileges due to alcohol related offenses to be able to drive again.

Monitoring Helps Relieve Jail Overcrowding

Jail overcrowding has always been a problem at Chicago’s Cook County Jail, and with the increase in offenses that carry mandatory penalties, other jail facilities in Illinois have felt the pinch as well. With that in mind, the Illinois Legislature authorized prisons and jails to release prisoners from their custody, with or without posting additional bail, by having an electronic home monitor device strapped and secured to their ankle. The monitors keep track of an offender’s location inside the designated area, and the device sounds off when an unauthorized exit from the confinement area occurs. Of course, the detainee is allowed discretionary permission to leave the premises for work, doctor or lawyer appointments, or any other purpose for which the person may be authorized.

The law authorizes the use of these devices for all but a handful of offenses: First Degree Murder, escape, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, aggravated battery with a firearm, bringing/possessing a firearm, ammunition or explosives into a penal institution, "super X" drug offenses (large quantity drug trafficking), calculated criminal drug conspiracy, and street gang criminal drug conspiracy. Any and all other offenses generally are qualified for use of the program.

Devices May be Used for Bail or for Sentencing

The electronic monitor may be used for individuals charged with a crime, during pre-trial or pre-adjudicatory detention. Recently, the Cook County Sheriff announced his intention to introduce legislation that may dramatically affect how pre-trial bail is set, and the EHM will play a huge part of his program. It may also be used as part of a sentence of probation, conditional discharge or periodic imprisonment. It may be used during post-trial/pre-sentencing incarceration. For individuals sent to prison, it may be used for parole/mandatory supervised release, work release, or furlough. There are specific limits regarding when a prisoner may be released on the monitor, be it the last 90 days, 180 days or 12 months before the end of a prison term.

The beauty of these devices is that they allow for a person to get out of jail, reside comfortably in his/her home, all the while serving their time. This reduces the prison population, eases the load on guards already seriously outnumbered, as well as the social workers, doctors and nurses, kitchen staff, etc. If a prisoner violates the restrictions of the device, they can be charged with such a violation as appropriate, or simply have their privilege revoked and return to the jail or prison. If you are wondering how they know when you violate, it is simple: they place an electronic signal tracer on your home phone (you must have a land line to take part in the program), so that when you move a certain distance away, it sends a signal to the monitoring officers.

BAIID and SCRAM Devices for DUI

When it comes to the problem of intoxicated motorists, technology has offered two different solutions: the Blood Alcohol Interlock Ignition Device (BAIID) and the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM). Currently, both of these devices are available to motorists that have lost their driving privileges due to a DUI arrest or conviction, as a condition of limited driving privileges. In addition, SCRAM devices may be used in some counties such as Du Page, on a voluntary basis for purposes of pretrial release or as a condition of a sentence.

Originally, the BAIID started as a pilot program of the Illinois Secretary of State, to be utilized in the case of "recidivist" offenders, as a condition of a restricted driving permit following a mandatory revocation for a DUI conviction. A recidivist is defined generally as an individual who has suffered two or more losses of driving privileges due to alcohol related arrests and/or convictions, including reckless homicide where alcohol or drugs were a factor. These losses may be in the form of a statutory summary suspension following a DUI arrest, a discretionary suspension based upon an out of state alcohol offense, or a mandatory revocation based upon an Illinois DUI conviction. If an individual is determined to be a recidivist at the time they are requesting reinstatement of driving privileges, the Secretary of State will send documents to the motorist explaining the program, its requirements, and the rules of its administration. The motorist must sign a document attesting to the fact that he or she has read the rules and is willing to abide by them as a condition of driving relief in the form of a restricted driving permit.

The machines are available through a number of authorized service providers, and each of these are presently listed on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website, where there are links to each of the provider’s web sites. Aside from the fees charged by the Secretary of State’s office, the service providers charge for the instrument and service on a monthly basis. The machine is simple enough: it interrupts the ignition circuit such that in order to close the circuit and start the car, one must blow an alcohol-free breath sample into a tube or the vehicle will not start. Also, the device is programmed to randomly require additional breaths while the vehicle is being operated, or the engine will shut down. If a positive sample occurs, the device records the level and stores it in memory, to be later discovered by the service provider and transmitted to Springfield.

Where a supposed violation has occurred, the motorist is notified in writing by the Secretary of State’s BAIID unit, and the motorist must respond in writing with an explanation. If deemed satisfactory, no action will be taken. If not…prepare to have your permit yanked and your revocation reinstated. It is rare for the BAIID unit to refuse an explanation, but violations of the device may discourage the granting of full reinstatement at a subsequent hearing. You see, if a motorist is granted full reinstatement without restrictions, the BAIID is not a requirement, as it only applies to restricted driving permits for employment, educational or medical reasons.

The BAIID program was so successful, that it became a permanent fixture to formal driver’s license reinstatement hearings. Several years ago, the program was expanded into the arena of first offender DUI cases, at least as far as they are defined for purposes of our summary suspension law. The MDDP, or Monitoring Device Driving Permit, works like this: if you have been arrested for a DUI and are subject to the statutory summary suspension as a "first offender" (someone who has not been, within the 5 years preceding the new arrest, been convicted of DUI, placed on court supervision for a DUI, or had a statutory summary suspension that was not rescinded), then you may apply for the permit. As long as you have either the BAIID installed in your vehicle or the SCRAM attached to your ankle, you may operate your motor vehicle 24/7 without restrictions. The program was deemed successful enough that our legislature did away with the prior "hard 30 day rule" which prevented a motorist from driving during the first 30 days of suspension. Now, with the device, you can drive during the entire suspension. Note: if you drive during the suspension without the permit or without the device, it is presently a Class 4 Felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison.

Crime to Tamper With Devices

One of the concerns our legislature had when enacting these provisions was the possibility that people would try to find ways around the devices in order to thwart their effectiveness. With that in mind, they passed a law that makes it a Class A misdemeanor to tamper with the device in any way in an effort to bypass the interlock ignition, or to be a "designated blower" for someone required to use the device (why on Earth would someone blow into a tube for a drunk driver, rather than just take the wheel?).

Whether or not one agrees with the use of electronic monitoring devices as a means of keeping individuals under control, it is clear that these devices are here to stay, and that their usage will become more pervasive as lawmakers are forced to confront societal ills, using all expedient means at their disposal to do so. As such, "Big Brother" is not only watching us, but he is breathing our air through the BAIID, he is smelling our perspiration through the SCRAM, and he is using our bodily fluids to crack down on violators.

Discuss Using These Devices for Your Benefit

If you have been charged with a DUI or other alcohol related offense, or you are facing other serious criminal charges, you need Chicago criminal lawyers that are well-versed in the many options available to you in your defense. You need the dedicated lawyers at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. We have offices in Chicago, Arlington Heights, as well as other locations to meet near you. We offer free, no obligation, consultations in confidential surroundings. Call us today at (800) 996-4824 to set up an appointment and let us explain how we can help you.

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Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : March 16, 2023