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Judges use ankle bracelets to check sobriety

Associated Press | July 6 2005

MILWAUKEE - Some Wisconsin judges are making people accused of alcohol-related offenses wear special ankle bracelets to track whether they are drinking.

The bracelet's maker, Alcohol Monitoring System of Colorado, believes the device can replace random breath tests.

A couple of beers can trigger the bracelet, which measures alcohol consumption through skin perspiration, according to the device's maker. The bracelet takes a reading and sends the information via wireless modem to a monitoring center.

Milwaukee and Racine county court systems have joined an increasing number of systems nationwide using the bracelets.

"It seemed a little Brave New World-ish, or a George Orwell type of thing," Milwaukee defense attorney Martin Tanz, who had a client ordered to wear the bracelet. "I guess the next step will be to wire it to the nearest police cruiser, and they'll come pick you up."

About 1,800 people nationwide wear the bracelets, more than two years since the company introduced them, said the company's marketing director, Kathleen Brown.

Racine County ordered 14 people to wear the bracelets since it started using them as an experiment last year, said Cheryl Zimmerman, whose consulting company works with corrections officials there.

In Milwaukee County, 26 people have worn the bracelets since court officials started using them about four months ago, an Alcohol Monitoring System official said.

The bracelets have their detractors. University of Washington physiologist Michael Hlastala, who has testified as an expert in two cases related to the bracelet, said he doesn't believe enough is known about the way alcohol diffuses into perspiration.

"It's not well enough understood, those mechanisms, to really consider this to be an accurate device," Hlastala said.

Douglas William Haywood was ordered to wear a bracelet for 40 days while awaiting trial on a charge of third-offense operating while intoxicated.

"At first I wasn't real pleased," Haywood said. "If it doesn't help me in my case, I'm sure I'll be a little more ticked off about that




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