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Posted on March 14, 2020 in Arizona Law

Do Ankle Monitors have Microphones?

Ankle monitors are regularly ordered by judges as an alternative to serving time in a prison or jail. They are most commonly used during probation or for pre-trial conditions that allow the defendant to be released to either have local restrictions of where they can go or in-home confinement.

With the advancement of technology, several issues have been raised about how much information ankle monitors should be allowed to collect including whether they should have microphones. However, ankle monitors do not currently have microphones.

Ankle Monitor Basics

Ankle monitors are a form of surveillance. They are an electronic device that is fitted to a person and worn around the ankle. They are also called ankle bracelets or ankle tags. They are commonly worn by defendants who have been sentenced to house arrest or those who are on parole or probation.

The monitor works by transmitting the location of the person wearing it via GPS. This way, law enforcement is able to track them and make sure they are in compliance with their court orders. If a person attempts to remove the bracelet, an alarm will be triggered and police will be dispatched to your last known location.

There are additional uses of ankle monitors, including an alternative to detention by tracking undocumented immigrants who may be facing removal from the United States. Technology has advanced so much that they can also be used in some cases to monitor alcohol consumption for repeat offenders of drinking-related crimes like repeated DUIs. These devices can either measure blood-alcohol content through the skin of the wearer or they can provide remote breathalyzer testing.

Criticism of Ankle Monitors

The purpose of the monitor is to allow the person to continue with some semblance of their regular life while they await further court direction. In theory, they should be able to tie up loose ends in their lives and prepare their families for possibly lengthy prison terms. However, critics of the monitors claim that there are too many issues with them and they do not fulfill their intended purpose.

One major criticism of ankle monitors is that they have no secondary checks for the information they collect. Many defendants claim that their monitors reported incorrect data which landed them longer prison sentences or got them wrongly accused of further crimes. Batteries in the monitors can also go bad and lose power, which causes the signal to be lost. This would trigger law enforcement to come and arrest the person.

They also do not allow for emergencies like if a patient is wearing one but needs to be transported to a different hospital far away for specialized treatment. Also, MRIs, x-rays, mammograms, and CT scans cannot be performed on people wearing the monitors. Most states do not have laws in place for this type of situation, so a person risks being arrested if they choose to take off their monitor to have a medically required scan.

A final major criticism of monitors is who owns the data it collects. Surprisingly, this information is not really shared or known. The law enforcement agency in charge of monitoring the person certainly has some ownership rights to the data, but other departments in both the federal and state level may also access it. The data is usually collected through third-party companies who then also have some right to it.

Ankle Monitors Do Not Have Microphones

As of now, ankle monitors do not have microphones. They are mostly GPS-run and are only used to show your location. Those that don’t have GPS are only used to make sure you stay within a limited area, like those worn by individuals who have been released on house arrest.

A court may order an ankle-monitor-wearer to have a landline phone located in the area they are confined to. If this is the case, the person would need to always wear the bracelet and should be prepared to answer the phone at any time. The police can then use their software to call and check that you are at the location. They have access to voice recognition software to confirm that the person who answers is the person they are monitoring.

While microphones may not be a standard part of wearing ankle monitors, there are currently no rules or regulations that specifically stop the practice from happening in the future. However, privacy concerns would more than likely quickly draw quick criticism. For example, someone wearing a monitor should be able to expect privacy during some situations such as using the bathroom. Also, others who are not monitored but interact with the person wearing the ankle bracelet have a right to privacy and to not be recorded without their consent.