Will a Portable Alcohol Monitor Help Me Avoid Jail After a DUI in Tennessee? Generally, anyone in Tennessee who is convicted of a DUI will be sentenced to serve some amount of jail time. As a condition of the defendant’s release after that minimum time has been served, the judge can order that the defendant be released on probation, provided that certain conditions are met. Those conditions generally include the requirement to install an interlock ignition device (IID), attendance at a substance abuse program, and the requirement (at the judge’s discretion) to use a Portable Alcohol Monitor PAM device.

So, the short answer is NO. Using a portable alcohol monitor won’t help you avoid a jail sentence; however, a PAM device can help you avoid additional time in jail after you serve a minimum sentence.

Tennessee’s DUI laws and sentencing requirements

Tennessee law makes it illegal for a driver to operate a vehicle while he/she is under the influence of alcohol (or other substances) to a degree that impairs the ability of the driver to operate their vehicle safely. You can also be charged and found guilty of DUI in Tennessee if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is .08 or higher. The BAC limit is .04 for commercial drivers and just .02 for drivers under 21.

The penalties vary depending on whether you have a prior record and the level of your BAC.

For a first DUI offense, your sentence will be between 48 hours and 11 months, 29 days. You will be required to participate in a substance abuse program. Your license will be suspended or revoked for one year – though you may be eligible for a restricted license. There will be a fine of $350.00 and you will be required to pay restitution to anyone who is hurt. You may also be required to install an IID at your own expense.

For a second offense, the minimum sentence is 45 days. In addition to the penalties for a first offense (which will be more severe), you may be eligible for probation if you use a PAM device via the use of an ankle bracelet after the 45-day sentence.

For a third offense, the minimum sentence is 120 days. The penalties will increase further. The judge may order probation with the use of a PAM device via the use of an ankle bracelet after the 120-day sentence.

Why might a judge order the use of a PAM device after a Sevierville DUI?

A PAM device is generally used in addition to an IID. The IID only tests your blood alcohol content level before you drive and while you drive. A PAM device test examines your alcohol use at any time. If you fail to use the PAM device or you use it and the device shows that your alcohol level is too high, the judge could revoke your probation and require that you spend the rest of your sentence in jail. The judge may also order that you meet other conditions, such as an evaluation of your sobriety status and whether additional treatment is required.

Generally, a PAM alerts you that your alcohol level needs to be tested.

You will blow into a device that measures your BAC. The information is then sent to the company that monitors the test results and makes the results available to the court. PAM devices generally connect to your phone and then use facial recognition software (or take a picture of you) to ensure you’re the person whose BAC is being tested.

Many PAM devices use a breath test. Another type of alcohol monitoring test is called a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM). A SCRAM detects the alcohol in your system through a test of the skin. So, a SCRAM test is one type of PAM test. The SCRAM device is also referred to as a SCRAM bracelet, since you normally wear the SCRAM monitor in the form of a bracelet around one of your ankles.

As discussed, a PAM or SCRAM is normally ordered for repeat offenders. Generally, the PAM or SCRAM is ordered as part of a condition of probation or parole, or as part of a mandated substance abuse program. It can also be ordered if you don’t have a car.

We’ll help you assert any defenses that may apply, such as that your phone died, the device malfunctioned, or that you missed the tests for legitimate reasons. If the PAM or SCRAM test fails, you should make every effort to have the device replaced.

It’s not advisable to try to trick the PAM or SCRAM device by using a lot of mouthwash or drinking a lot of water. The alcohol in mouthwash dissipates fairly quickly, and drinking a lot of water won’t help with your breath test results.

If you are ordered to use a PAM or SCRAM, you’ll have to purchase the device yourself (it costs about $100) and pay a monthly testing fee, which can cost $100 or $200 a month.

If the judge does not order that you use a PAM or SCRAM device, we may still recommend that you offer to use one to show that you are taking steps to become and stay sober.

There are often defenses to a DUI charge. At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our Sevierville criminal defense lawyers have helped many defendants obtain dismissals, plea bargains, and acquittals of their DUI charges. If you are found guilty or plead guilty, we’ll help you understand and comply with any conditions the judge imposes – including the requirement to use a portable alcohol monitor. To discuss your DUI case, please call us or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation. We are strong advocates for criminal defendants in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.