Tether and Electronic Monitoring Devices


Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

As a condition of bail, bond, sentencing, or probation, the judge may order you to wear an electronic monitoring device, or tether. An electronic monitoring device allows pretrial services, probation, or parole the chance to closely supervise you by keeping track of where you are at or in some cases, determine if you are consuming alcohol. There are several types of electronic monitoring devices that are commonly used. Tethers are bracelets that are attached to the ankle while breathalyzers can be portable or attached to your car.

Global Positioning System (GPS) Tether

This monitors the defendant’s movement by satellite and reports his movements and whereabouts to the supervising agency. Exclusion Zones or Hot Zones (places where the defendant is not supposed to be) are programmed into a computer program that runs in conjunction with the GPS tether and alerts the supervising agency if the defendant goes someplace that he is not supposed to go such as the home or workplace of an alleged victim. The GPS tether could also be programmed so that the defendant is only allowed to be in or traveling to and from certain places such as work, home, or court. It could also be programmed to alert the supervising agency if defendant leaves beyond a certain radius.

Transdermal Alcohol Tether

This type of tether monitors (usually SCRAM tethers) the defendant’s skin to determine if any alcohol has been ingested into the body. While it is designed to monitor any alcohol from alcoholic drinks or alcohol-based products (mouthwashes, cough syrups, etc.) that the defendant may be ingesting, they are not designed to detect only ethyl alcohol (the type contained in alcoholic beverages). They will detect only forms of alcohol that can come from anything ranging from certain foods, hand lotions, body washes, or cleaning products. It also alerts the agency if the defendant has tried circumventing the tether in any way or tampering with it.

Standard Tether

This device records and reports when a defendant enters and exits certain locations, such as his residence. This ankle bracelet needs a landline phone in order to properly work.


Breathalyzers are either portable devices or installed to a fixed setting like a car or home. The court may require a defendant to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT) at regular times (everyday by a certain time, each time defendant enters or leaves the residence), or when certain events occur (e.g. driving a car). These units are often equipped with cameras to verify that it is actually the defendant providing the breath sample. Breathalzyers are often ordered by the court for substance-related offenses such as DUIs, driver’s license restorations, any offense involving alcohol, or if the defendant has a history of alcohol abuse.

Ignition Interlock Devices

An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer that is specifically designed for installation in cars to prevent defendants from operating the car until they prove they have not been drinking. They require a significant breath sample that requires the defendant to blow and hum at the same time. A breath sample of approximately 1.5 ml of breath is normally required before the car will start. The ignition interlock device also requires you to submit to “rolling tests” meaning you have to give a breath sample at spontaneous times while the car is in motion to determine you haven’t been drinking since you started the car. The slightest thing can cause them to malfunction. These are frequently required for driver’s license restorations, High BAC (Superdrunk) charges, subsequent OWI offenses (OWI 2nd, OWI 3rd) and felony DUIs (OWI 3rd, OWI Causing Injury or Death).

Lansing Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Tethers, breathalzyers, and ignition interlock devices as a bond or probation condition can be costly in terms of money (rental and maintenance costs) as well as convenience. It also creates another possibility for a violation if anything goes wrong. A violation could get your bond or probation revoked and land you back in jail for a long time. If you have been charged with a tether or ignition interlock violation or if you are required to have a tether as a bond condition, you need to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side to defend against the violation or convince the judge the requirement is too costly, burdensome, or unnecessary.

If you are facing misdemeanor or felony criminal charges call Austin Legal Services, PLC today at (517) 614-1983 for a free, no obligation consultation!

Defending misdemeanor and felony criminal charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Livingston, Jackson, Clinton, Gratiot, Calhoun, Kent, Kalamazoo in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Brighton, Howell, Jackson, St. Johns, Ithaca, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Jackson, Charlotte, Corunna.

Michigan Probation Violations

Lansing Michigan Probation Violation Attorney

Probation is a sentence imposed in lieu of incarceration when you are found guilty of a crime. This allows people to continue on with their lives in the civilian world while still being under the court’s supervision and direction. It also keeps jail space available for people who truly need to be locked up. There are different kinds of probation such as supervised and unsupervised. You can even be sentenced to both jail and probation. Being on probation is a privilege and not a right. If you don’t keep up with your obligations, then you can be sentenced to jail for violating your probation or worse, the judge can revoke your probation and sentence you to an even longer jail term. Some counties have more rigorous requirements for probation than others and thus the demands can be hard to keep up with. This is why defendants can very easily and often find themselves being violated by their probation officer. In this article I will discuss the various aspects of probation in greater detail.

Terms of Probation

For the most part, probation terms are boilerplate regardless of the offense, but there are some terms that are case or person specific. The most common probation terms are:

  • No possessing firearms
  • You must remain employed or be seeking full-time employment or attend school
  • No contact with anyone you know to have a felony record
  • Submit to random or scheduled drug or alcohol tests
  • Do not possess, consume, or be around places where alcohol is sold and to be consumed on the premises
  • Pay court costs and fines
  • Obey all local, state, and federal laws
  • Report any official police contact
  • No contact with the victim in your case (if there was one)
  • Report any changes in address or employment
  • Submit to random searches of your person or house
  • No leaving the state without permission

Again, these are the most common ones but more terms may be added or modified depending on your specific case. For example, you may have a curfew imposed which is especially imposed on younger people. If you were convicted of torturing animals, the court may order you to not own or be around animals. It varies from case to case, but often there are a lot of common probation terms no matter what the case.

Supervised vs. Un-supervised Probation

Depending on the terms of your probation, it will either be supervised or un-supervised. With supervised probation, you will be assigned a probation officer (an employee of the Michigan Department of Corrections) that you will have to report to on a regular basis, usually once a month. This is who monitors your probation for the court to make sure you are meeting all your conditions. They also have the power to violate you if they believe you have not complied with one or more of your probation conditions. If you are not assigned a probation officer, that means you are on un-supervised probation which means you do not have to regularly report to anyone. You will just have to provide proof to the court on your own that you are obeying their orders such as paying your fines on time, etc. There is also a hybrid that some judges use where you may only have to report the first and last month of your probation.

What factors go into whether you are given supervised or un-supervised probation? It depends on the nature of the offense and how crowded the court or the probation department is. A lot of it varies by location and the judge. For instance, in Wayne County it is easier to get un-supervised probation simply because if everyone who was sentenced to probation in the Metro-Detroit area was assigned a probation officer to report to, they would need a probation building the size of the Empire State Building. Some jurisdictions frequently give un-supervised probation for minor infractions such as marijuana possession. That is where having an attorney that practices in that county comes in handy because they will be more likely to tell you what the judge is apt to do.

What are the Most Common Probation Violations?

  • Testing positive for drugs or alcohol, aka dirty drops
  • Tether tampering, positive test violation
  • Not reporting a change in address, employment, or official police contact
  • Missing an appointment with your probation officer
  • Failing to pay court fines or attend a court-ordered program
  • Being convicted of a new crime

What Can Happen Even I’m Found Guilty of Violating Probation?

  • Your probation can be extended, new conditions can be added, or existing conditions modified
  • You can be sentenced to jail up to 93 days and your probation will continue
  • Your probation can be revoked simply as an  unsuccessful discharge with no further punishment
  • Your probation can continue but certain delayed sentences such as HYTA, 7411, or 769 can be revoked
  • Your probation can continue with no further punishment which is akin to a verbal reprimand or stern warning
  • Your probation can be revoked and the judge can re-sentence you for the underlying offense that placed you on probation

What Happens When Your Probation Officer Violates You?

When your probation officer has given notice that they are violating you, you will first be arraigned by the judge on the matter. The judge will explain that you have the right to be represented by a lawyer and that you have a right to a Showcause Hearing. That is a hearing where the probation officer would have to demonstrate by a “preponderance of the evidence” that you have violated a condition or conditions of your probation. It is not a high standard like the “beyond all reasonable doubt” standard at criminal trials. Instead it’s a balancing test. They basically just have to tip the scale, i.e. 51%, or show more likely than not that you are guilty of the violation.

You still have the right to be represented by a lawyer and to call witnesses and present evidence if you wish and certainly you can cross-exam any witnesses that your adversary presents. Depending on the jurisdiction, either the probation officer will present the evidence or the prosecutor will by calling the probation officer as a witness. At the conclusion of proofs, the judge will decide if you are guilty of the violation and if you are guilty, what your sentence for the violation will be. The probation officer will give a recommendation which a lot of judges closely or strictly follow. However, a good lawyer can still persuade the judge to deviate from their recommendation.

If you have been violated, it is important that you have an attorney with experience in probation violations to represent you. If the judge or probation officer indicates that they are likely to recommend jail or sentence you to jail, you especially need a lawyer on your side. You should try to retain a lawyer that frequently practices in the area you are on probation in so that your lawyer is familiar with the judge, probation officer, and what the likely sentence if you are convicted will be.

If you have been charged with a probation violation, contact Austin Legal Services, PLC today at (517) 614-1983 to speak to our Michigan probation violation defense lawyer.

Defending probation violations throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Barry, Jackson, Gratiot, Kent, Washtenaw, Livingston and in the cites of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Charlotte, Jackson, Brighton, Howell, St. Johns, Ithaca, Hastings, Corunna, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids.