Former NFL star Michael Vick wore one. Comedians Andy Dick and Tracy Morgan did, as well. Heck, even Lindsay Lohan had one.
We’re talking about electronic monitoring devices – ankle bracelets – required to be worn by some suspects rather than spending time in jail.
According to the most recent data, court-ordered use of GPS ankle bracelet monitors in the U.S. jumped 140 percent between 2005 and 2015. In Central Indiana alone, there are more than 3,200 residents who wear GPS ankle bracelets that monitor their movement.
How do they work? Are they effective? Do they represent an intrusion of privacy?
We’ll talk about it in this article.
When Are People Required to Wear Ankle Bracelets?
Judges often require suspects to wear the bracelets while under house arrest, awaiting court appearances, on parole or probation, performing community service requirements, or for any other reasons a court feels it is appropriate.
For example, the Indiana Division of Parole Services began its electronic monitoring program in 2012 to track those convicted of sex offenses. That program was expanded in 2016 to follow those with parole restrictions.
The ankle bracelets can also be used to prohibit the wearer from using alcohol.
With the 2016 decision of the Indiana Supreme Court for counties to reduce their use of cash bail by 2020, the use of electronic monitoring is expected to increase even more.
How Do Ankle Bracelets Work?
The ankle bracelets are also called “tethers” – and for good reason.
Required to be worn around your ankle at all times, the bracelets use a radio frequency transmission through cell phone towers that communicate back to law enforcement. They can be programmed in a way that alerts authorities if you move beyond a permitted area.
Do Ankle Monitors Have Microphones?
Many of the newer models of ankle bracelets do, in fact, have the ability to call and record people.
While most bracelets are supposed to alert the wearer with a tone when it’s recording, a technician testifying in a case in Puerto Rico confirmed the devices can be turned on without warning.
This revelation could be disturbing to some. A George Washington University Law professor said the recordings could be a “constitutional challenge” if the recorded information tips police officers off on incriminating information.
Who Is Listening to the Monitors?
It’s usually either the monitoring service or your probation officer who will be listening and reading the signals from your ankle bracelet.
It’s common for the ankle bracelet monitoring service to check in with you frequently. Some devices simply vibrate when the officer is trying to reach you, and you’ll respond with a set of instructions.
Other models allow the monitoring service to actually call you through the device. Most monitoring services have speech recognition technology that lets them know when someone else answers the call.
Are Ankle Monitors Effective?
It depends on whom you ask. For example, with prison and jail overcrowding in Indiana at an all-time high, the use of ankle bracelet monitoring seems like a natural cost-effective alternative.
However, research tells us that most people awaiting trial will appear in court with a simple reminder through text or a phone call.
If you are restricted from consuming alcohol, most ankle bracelets are effective enough to serve as court admitted evidence if you’re found to have violated that requirement.
Who Pays for Ankle Bracelets?
It varies from county to county. In most, the suspected offender pays an initial setup fee and a daily maintenance fee. This can be particularly troublesome and even ruinous for those in poorer situations.
How Can I Avoid Problems with Ankle Bracelets?
The most effective way to avoid any negative consequences with your ankle bracelet is to follow your court-ordered instructions as written.
The devices are waterproof and are built in such a way to prevent tampering with their effectiveness. If you are found to have tampered with the device in any way, you’ll likely be in far more trouble by facing actual jail time and hefty fines.
If you feel the device is malfunctioning in any way, you need to alert the monitoring service, your probation or parole officer, and your attorney as soon as possible.
While they may be awkward, wearing the bracelets at home is far more desirable than going to jail.
The Key Takeaway
If you’re ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet as a condition of your parole or probation, you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney who understands how the technology works.
That base of knowledge is crucial to your attorney being able to challenge any monitoring evidence against you in court.