How To Avoid Scams: Business Cheat Sheets

Download the PDF of the Avoiding Scams Cheat Sheet here.

Avoiding Business Scams

Business owners are constantly pitched on a wide variety of products and services. Unfortunately, many of these are scams and a business owner needs to be able to tell how to avoid scams to stay in business. You may have an excellent business model, lots of revenue and success, but if someone scams you that can set you back or possibly even cause you to go out of business.  It is very important in business to never let your guard down against potential scammers. A scam can come from anyone: a relative, a trusted friend, a salesperson, an employee, a client, or almost anywhere else. Anytime someone is wanting or taking an action or requesting money for something there is a chance they may be scamming you. Be conscious and aware of this and always think things through very critically. Do not be afraid to ask tough, rude questions to make sure that you are not going to get scammed.

Key Questions To Ask To Avoid Being Scammed:

  1. What is this person’s interest in me and my business?
  2. Are they asking for money or work done upfront?
  3. Is this a multi-level marketing scheme? MLM’s are almost ALWAYS scams. If a business says you can make $XXX by signing up your friends and family to buy our service and then they sign up their friends and family… yup you are being scammed.
  4. Is this salesperson trying to prey on your fears? Are they saying you need life insurance because you will die soon? Yup a scam.
  5. Do I know this person or company? Can I research them online or talk to other people to verify their claims?
  6. Is this person claiming to do something in best interest but I don’t really know why they would?

Common Scams To Watch Out For:

  • Tech support scam – if “tech support” for a company calls you, force them to verify themselves.
  • Money transfer scams – people want you to send them payment for an item upfront online. Wiring money is like giving cash, once its gone you can’t retrieve it. Never pay for an item online unless you can verify the seller.
  • Online penny auction scams – hey you can buy a $1,000 television for $20? Awesome! But wait… why would they give away a television? Sadly there is no free lunch and they are scamming you with their auction structure. Avoid.
  • Email spam – unsolicited emails selling products from unknown vendors.
  • Text message spam – same as email spam
  • Identity theft scam – carefully monitor you and your business’s credit reports for signs of fraudulent activity.
  • Work from home scams – people promising you to make big bucks for just sitting at your computer and clicking? Once again, ask what’s in it for them. Turns out generally you are the one getting scammed.
  • Pay in advance credit offer scams – legitimate banks will never ask you to pay in advance to get a line of credit.
  • “Low Risk” investment scams – got an email promising you an amazing investment in a secret new green technology? Probably a scam.
  • Nigerian email scams – someone promising you lots of money to help them move or transfer funds? They just want you bank account number so they can empty out your pockets.
  • Debt relief scams – hear all those ads on the radio for debt relief? Have you ever asked yourself why a company would pay good money for radio time to get you out of debt for free? Unfortunately, these companies are mostly just going to take your money and not actually do anything to relieve your debt.

Beating The Grind: Business Cheat Sheets

The day is only just beginning but you find yourself staying at your computer in a funk of despair. Sitting down and doing a full day of work seems impossible. You can’t get any tasks started, you find the people around you annoying, you feel tired and beat down. You just want to go home and cry.

This is the bottom of The Grind. The Grind is the day to day necessary work to run the business. You have to show up and work no matter how you feel: Some days you feel like you are on a roll and conquering foes left and right, other days you feel hopeless and stuck.

How can you beat the grind? How can you get through the down times? How do you stay steady day after day?

Understanding What Causes The Grind:

Half the battle of beating the doldrums of The Grind is understanding what it is and how it comes about.

A part of being human is having your emotions sometimes high and sometimes low. There is a natural process and cycle that happens that is divorced from reality. You need to expect and understand that your emotions are fickle and will change over time. There are also many factors in reality that can cause you to feel on a high or down in a low.

Potential Highs:

  • Your team completes a project successfully
  • You close a new deal
  • Goals are met
  • People treat you well

Potential Lows:

  • A client quits
  • An employee quits
  • Goals are missed
  • You have to deal with collections
Understanding that both positive and negative events will happen in business (and often pile on top of one another), is a big key in getting through these times. When it seems like the entire world is against you (and sometimes it will be!), step back and keep in mind the big picture. You have been through times like these before and you will go through them again. You will have highs and lows till the day you die, it’s just a part of being human. Embrace it and understand it, and let go of feelings that arise from the stuff in between.

How to Beat the Day to Day Grind:

Secret cheats of experienced business owners to getting through the grind:

  1. Break down the big problems into a series of tiny steps. Your biggest client just stopped working with you? Don’t despair; instead figure out the individual steps you will need to take to replace that client. Think it through step by step from additional marketing efforts to new sales techniques you can implement.
  2. Take a break. Go outside and go for a walk. Take a nap. Go to the gym (even in the middle of the workday!) You have to break out the funk and many times changing your physical surroundings will help with that.
  3. Get enough sleep! If you aren’t sleeping enough, you will have low emotional energy reserves and small problems will loom up huge and huge problems will suffocate you. If you approach each day fresh, you will have less difficulty getting through the day.
  4. Look at the problems facing you objectively. Generally an issue that seems overwhelming at the moment really isn’t when you think about the big picture. Has an employee just quit to travel the world? Just think back to when there was only you and one other person working in your company and that person quit! You got through that problem right? You will get through this one too.
  5. Maintain healthy relationships outside of work. For an entrepreneur, it is all to easy to let go of friendships and family when you are charging forward to make your business successful. Young businesses require 100% of your effort so it is extremely hard to find anything to spare for outside relationships. However, these outside relationships are the key to helping keep you stable through the highs and lows and letting you know there is a world outside of your business.
  6. Avoid alcohol and other substances. Alcohol may help you let go of your problems for a couple of hours, but they will be back and they will be worse the next day when you are hung over. Don’t use alcohol or other substances to try to “medicate” away your issues. Find healthy stress outlets instead; hobbies, exercise, relationships.
  7. Eat healthy food. What you put into your body eventually determines who you are. If you fill up on over-processed, unhealthy food, you will become an unhealthy person. Even when you are stressed out and under deadlines make sure to take the time to eat healthy or eventually you will lose capacity for dealing with problems.
  8. Practice gratitude. One of the things I do each day is write down something I am grateful for. This is just a couple of lines, but it really helps me to understand what a great life I have and puts things in perspective.
  9. Forgive and release grudges.  In running my business I have had to deal with many people who behaved in ways that were flat out evil. Early on, I got myself so worked up that I would be angry for a week afterwards. That never helped and my productivity would go way down because of it. It is a smart business decision to release the bitterness and hate you may have towards someone who cheated you or treated you wrongly and move on to bigger and better things.
  10. Work out. I strongly recommend that every entrepreneur work out at least 5 days a week. Why? Stress builds up at rates and levels that are very unhealthy for most business owners. In order to release all of this stress, you need to do hard physical exercise to get it burned off.  Low on money? Simply go for a walk or run outside every day. Short on time? Use the  New York Times 7 Minute Workout.

35 Funniest Latvian Jokes

Below is the list of the 100 Funniest Latvian Jokes for your reading pleasure:

  1. Two Latvian look at clouds. One see two potatoes. One see impossible dream.
    Is same cloud.
  2. What Potato say to other potato?
    Joke silly, nobody have 2 potato.
  3. Why Latvian man wear hat?
    For to hide bread from family!
  4. Q: How much potato to kill Latvian?
    A: None.
  5. One day, hear knock on door.
    Man ask “Who is?”
    “Is potato man, I come around to give free potato”
    Man is very excite and opens door.
    Is not potato man, is secret police.
  6. Why does Latvian man wants Stalin back??
    With so many dead or in the Gulag more potato for himself!
  7. Walks a horse into a Latvian bar.
    Man says:”There you are  dear wife!”
  8. Man is hungry. He steal bread to feed family. Get home, find all family have sent Siberia! “More bread for me,” man think. But bread have worm.
  9. Three Latvian are brag about sons. “My son is soldier. He have rape as many women as want,” say first Latvian. “Zo?” second say, “My son is farmer. He have all potato he want!” Third Latvian wait long time, then say, “My son is die at birth. For him, struggle is over.” “Wow! You are win us,” say others. But all are feel sad.
  10. Questioning: Why did chicken cross road?
    Answering: I have not seen chicken since I was very young, on my parents’ farm. This is before the Cossacks slaughtered them. I can still hear screams of sister as soldiers rape her. But back to question, where did you see chicken? I am very, very hungry.
  11. Latvian walk into bar with poodle under one arm and salami under other. Eat salami first.
  12. How many Latvian is take screw in light bulb?
    Only one. Obtain light bulb is hard part. You have potato?
  13. How many Latvian is take screw in light bulb?
    25. One screw in, 24 ride bicycle generator for 1-hour shift. But time probably better spend search food.
  14. Three Latvian girl are walk down street. One have knife, one have gun, one have window. They are meet soldier. Soldier is ask first girl, “Why you are have knife?” “If you try rape me, I stab!” she say. Okay! Second girl, “Why you are have gun?” “If you try rape me, I shoot!” she say. Okay! Third girl, “Why you are have window?!?” “If you try rape me, I jump out!”
  15. Latvian walk into bar and say, “I have not eaten for many days. One full beer will be too much for me. How much just maybe one shot beer?” Bartender say, “This is can do for you. Is two centimes.” Latvian say, “Oh. I was hoping it would be less. I do not have that much.”
  16. How is get one-arm Latvian out of tree?
    Is no one-arm Latvian! Why you silly? All go Center for Great Peaceful Physical Reassignment. You no ask.
  17. Boy: But mother, I no are like grandma.
    Mother: Eat anyway. Is no potato.
  18. Latvian is rub lamp find genii. Genii say, “What is three wishes?” Latvian say, “I wish potato!” Then, POOF! Potato! Latvian so happy! “Oh! Is potato! Is potato!” say Latvian. Genii ask, “What is next wish?” Latvian is say, “I wish you go away so can enjoy potato!” POOF! Too bad. Also, was only lamp.
  19. Is dead dog in road. Is dead Latvian in road. What difference?
    Dog have fur keep warm. Also, freedom. And dog try eat poop for pleasure not just survive. So many thing!
  20. Latvian walk into bar with mule. Bartender say, “Why so long face?” Latvian say, “I was thinking of my daughter. She has been lie with soldier for potato feed baby. “
  21. Why six is afraid seven? Because seven have many friend politburo.
  22. How many Latvian is take screw in light bulb?
    Only one. Obtain light bulb is hard part. You have potato?
  23. Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    Latvian who?
    Please open door. Is cold.
  24. Janis: I hope my son does not die during night.
    Guntis: What is “hope”?
    Janis: Yes. I know what you say.
    Guntis: No. I am serious. What is hope?
    Janis: In truth, I do not know.
  25. A fishmonger says to a bootblack, “Are there any more potato left?” Bootblack says, “Yes, one. But it has gone bad.” The fishmonger says, “I am very hungry. I have not eaten for three days. I shall eat it, even if it makes me very ill.” And bootblack says, “I did not speak truth. In reality, there is no food left. You shall go hungry yet another day, my friend.”
  26. Two Latvian look at sky. No have eyes.
  27. Two Latvian look at sun. Is not sun, but nuclear reactor meltdown. Latvian happy because maybe now warm enough to plant potato.
  28. Latvian comedian say “What deal with potato?”

    Latvian crowd not laugh.

    Comedian squint into darkness, to see audience.

    There is no crowd. All die from malnourish

  29. Classic Irishman’s dilemma… do I eat the potato now, or do I let it ferment and drink it later?
  30. Latvian #1: Knock knock

    Latvian #2: who there? I kid! I see you, we burn door for warming

  31. Handy latvian man see farmer and say, “Your wheelbarrow sound squeaky, I fix for half potato.” Farmer angry because as he say, “This not wheelbarrow, this is wife!”
  32. Latvian girl is say, “I want go America one day.” Father say, “I send you America.” Daughter is thank father. Make tears of happy. Father use for salty potato. Father think moment, say, “Daughter, I no send you America.” Potato is more salt.
  33. Latvian man not see old neighbor for many days. He go into house to see how is. Neighbor frozen to death. Man very happy. Family eat well for many weeks now.
  34. I go America. Hear childs sing… one potato… two potato… three potato… four… Is glorious America. Streets made from potato.
  35. Latvian man walked through snow strom to get potato to feed family at market . Got potato then froze to death. then family sad. potato wasted.

Operant Conditioning For Employees: Business Cheat Sheets

Download the cheat sheet PDF for operant conditioning here.

Business Operant Conditioning

An employee who started with a good attitude working at Coalition had his performance degrade over time. As his work performance became worse and worse, I came down on him harder and harder. I spent at least twenty minutes a day in special meetings with him trying to tell him what he was doing wrong and what he should be doing instead. All of my efforts were to no avail, eventually he just stopped showing up for work period. What happened in this situation?

The key to understanding employee behavior and work ethic is to start by understanding the fundamental laws of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning describes the processes by which any organism (ranging from a chicken to a dog to an employee in your organization to yourself) learns new behaviors.

Operant conditioning is defined as learning in which an individual’s behavior is modified by it’s consequences, either strengthening or weakening that behavior. For example if you touch your hand to a hot stove, suffering a burn that will provide a strong negative reinforcement.

How does operant conditioning change human (your employees) behavior?

  1.  State the goal. What behavior do you specifically want to encourage? At Coalition we define goals in terms of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). A KPI needs to be specific, measurable, and easily understood. Don’t assign more than 2-3 KPI’s per employee and make sure you let each employee know how important each KPI is to you.
  2. Monitor the behavior. Track KPIs in a way that is easily understood and accessible to the employee. Make sure it is logged.
  3. Provide positive reinforcement immediately following the person performing the desired behavior. It is extremely important to give employees positive reinforcement at least daily for their desired behavior. Desired behavior would be any work that helps them with their KPI. Managers are responsible for identifying this desired behavior and reinforcing it by smiling and telling the employee thank you and complimenting them for their good work.
  4. Provide feedback when the employee performs incorrect behaviors, but be cautious here. Make sure feedback is delivered in a constructive, correcting manner. Also be certain that you deliver at least a 6:1 ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback.

Positive Reinforcers for Employees

  • SMILE at them 🙂
  • Say “Thank you”
  • Say “Nice work”, “Good job”, “Well done”, etc
  • Tell them “I will let upper management know what a great job you did on X project”.
  • Record what they did in a tracking sheet or their 1 on 1 meeting notes or even a chart on the wall with stars
  • Email them personally and thank them specifically for what they did
  • Email their team and let the team know waht the person accomplished
  • Provide “points” or “badges” of some kind
  • Give the employee a small thank you perk such as a starbucks card or a voucher for a movie ticket or by taking them to breakfast or lunch.



How To Write A Business Contract – Business Cheat Sheets

Please note before I begin that I am not a lawyer and these tips on how to write a business contract are not legal advice.  Download PDF file of image below here.

How to Write A Business Contract

Are you just getting your business started and want to avoid spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer but are afraid to write legalese yourself? These steps on how to write a business contract should help remove the element of fear and help you better understand what do. It would be smart to consult a lawyer to review your contract once you are done. Many of the contracts that my business uses have been written by myself based off of templates I find online then customized and fleshed out with what I want. I have an attorney friend who will generally review my contracts after I have written them to make sure they are free of errors and cover my bases. Below are the essentials of writing a good business contract:

  1. ALWAYS put all terms of an agreement in writing. Oral promises are worthless in court because though they may be legally binding they are often difficult to prove that they actually exist. I actually have run into a number of situations in which I made a written agreement with someone and then we couldn’t remember the terms later so the written agreement saved us the trouble of an expensive legal battle – it was a great reminder of what was needed.
  2. Use correct legal names. Identify the parties to the contract by their full legal business names (LLC or corporation) not by the individuals signing the contracts name. Make sure that whoever is signing the contract with you has the right to sign on behalf of the corporation. You need to make sure that this is accurate so that if the agreement goes south you have legal rights over that entity.
  3. Be direct. You don’t need to use a lot of fancy legal lingo for a contract to be effective. Be simple and direct in pointing out what needs to be included. Try to think of all relevant factors and situations that could come up and make sure those are addressed.  Keep things simple with clear numbered paragraph headings with nice titles.
  4. Don’t forget anything relevant. Judges will only enforce what is included in a contract, not what you discussed orally leading up to signing the contract. Make sure that everything is included. If there are charts, graphs, videos or other relevant information be sure to include them as “Exhibit A”, “Exhibit B”, etc. If you do end up forgetting something, create a short written amendment to add those details onto the contract.
  5. Confidentiality. Be sure to include a clause for non-disclosure if one or both of the businesses involved will learn private information about the other business.
  6. Select a state to govern the contract. Pick a state that will be in charge of arbitrating a disputed contract. Generally you will want this to be the state you are in. You also should include what legal steps each party should take when the contract is in dispute – does it go to mediation, arbitration, small claims court, or regular court? Deciding this stuff up front will avoid lots of legal red tape battles later if the contract does not go as planned.
  7. Include all information and details. Be sure to thoroughly explain the rights and duties of all the parties involved. Don’t forget the who, how, when, where or anything else.  Remember that anything not in the contract will not be enforceable in court.
  8. Specify exactly how the contract can be terminated or cancelled. Frequently one party or another will want to cancel or terminate a business contract. If they do choose to do so, they will need a set route established on how or when it can be done. Many times a cancellation will require one business to pay the other a fee or to perform a certain action. Another example might be that if one party misses many deadlines the other party can cancel the contract.
  9. Be very clear when money is involved. Be specific on who owes what to whom and when. Include what the penalties are for late payment. If installment payments are made be specific as to what dates they will be made on. If work needs to be done to the satisfaction of one party, be very specific on what exactly needs to be done to satisfy that party. Also include method of payment – credit card, cash, cashier’s check, etc.
  10. Signatures. Don’t forget to have both parties sign and date and obtain copies of the contract!
  11. Find template contracts to start from. If you are writing up a new contract type for the first time you can often simply Google search for it and you will turn up many other people’s similar contracts. I have put together my own little Frankenstein’s this way and then sent them to my attorney for a quick review and approval.

Lindsay Lohan Should Not Be Sent to Jail

Surprise, surprise.  I am actually going to defend Lindsay Lohan on my blog.

Lindsay Lohan: No Jail
Lindsay Lohan: No Jail

Lindsay Lohan was arrested in 2007 after getting caught drunk driving twice.  Much more recently, her alcohol detecting bracelet determined that she had been drinking.  The circumstances surrounding this incident are incriminating: she had just attended parties after the MTV Music Awards.

I have had experience with alcohol detecting devices, including ones that use the same technology as Lindsay Lohan’s alcohol detecting bracelet.  These devices are SEVERELY inaccurate.  I had one tell me that I had a .20% BAC level when I was sober and hadn’t even had a drink.  Ridiculously terrible at judging drinking.

I did some research on the device Lindsay Lohan was wearing, called the SCRAM made by Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS).  I found an article detailing the following information:

The judge very harshly sentenced her to 3 consecutive 30 day sentences and an additional 90 days in live-in rehab afterwards.  Essentially she is supposed to go to jail for 90 days then serve an additional 90 days of

The Science and Practice Of The SCRAM Bracelet

The SCRAM bracelet measures alcohol using the same fuel cell technology used by most portable breath testing devices. With this particular device, the fuel cell is manufactured by Draeger. A fuel cell is a device designed to continually convert fuel and an oxidant into direct current. The reaction that takes place in an alcohol fuel cell is alcohol oxidation, and for these purposes, the “fuel” is alcohol. So, as alcohol is converted in the fuel cell to acetic acid it produces two electrons for each alcohol molecule. This oxidation creates a current, and the intensity of the current correlates directly to the amount of alcohol consumed by the fuel cell. This measurement can be further converted into an alcohol concentration.

What makes SCRAM unique is that it uses this technology not to measure the amount of alcohol in one’s breath, but instead uses it to measure the amount of alcohol migrating through one’s skin. Once in place the device will monitor the wearer based on a schedule set by the monitoring agency. Then, at a predetermined time, the bracelet communicates with a home-placed modem via a 900 MHz radio signal. The readings are sent to a remote computer that acts as a central clearing house of data where it is monitored and interpreted. The data for a specific offender is then available to the home state’s monitoring agency through a secure Internet Web site.

SCRAM’s alcohol measuring technology became feasible based on advances in technology that allowed a transdermal device to be small enough to be worn continuously, and sophisticated enough to communicate the readings obtained to a remote location for analysis. Prior to AMS, several other transdermal methods had been tested, including sweat patches and a competing and very similar device worn on the wrist. This wrist device was manufactured by Gither, Inc., and was the subject of research performed by Dr. Robert M. Swift, who first published on the topic in 1992. Ultimately, Dr. Swift published three articles as well as an editorial on the subject of transdermal alcohol measurement, with the last of these published in 2000. In this last article Dr. Swift indicated for the future, that Gither, Inc. plans to perform more experiments that measure transdermal alcohol under more natural drinking conditions. This research has either not been performed or not yet subject to publication. In his 1993 editorial, Dr. Swift states that additional research is being conducted to better elucidate the clinical pharmacology of transcutaneous ethanol and its relation to BAC, and to test reliability, specificity and acceptance of the transdermal methodology in different individuals over a range of research and clinical applications. While the article published in 2000 addressed some of these issues it is clear that much research remains to be done relative to the overall efficacy of transdermal alcohol testing, as well as to its overall applicability the non-clinical setting.

The only published research dealing specifically with the SCRAM bracelet was paid for by AMS, and was researched by J. Robert Zettl. In this paper, Zettl indicates that the objective of this research was to compare the accuracy of readings using the AMS SCRAM bracelet to alcohol concentrations measured by conventional breath analysis. He concludes that this independent research establishes SCRAM technology through its ability to provide accurate, continuous blood alcohol tests on clients who would have normally tested negative in a random testing program. Where random tests during the day might not detect an offender’s drinking event, SCRAM’s continuous testing will catch the event.

What is particularly noteworthy about the Zettl paper is that he is not a research scientist, and his research appears not to have been published in any peer reviewed scientific journal. In fact, it appears not to have been actually published by anyone other than AMS. Also, the only indication of the methodology employed is an indication that hundreds of subjects were tested over an approximately 9-month period. Alcohol Monitoring Ankle BraceletThe paper indicates also that the results of the SCRAM bracelet were confirmed not through the use of blood tests, but instead through the use of various breath testing devices. There is no statistical analysis done with the numbers obtained by Zettl in this study. It is also unknown whether or not the data was actually recorded. What is clear is that no statistical data is included in the text of this paper. After Zettl’s testing, unspecified modifications were made to enhance the SCRAM unit’s precision, comfort, communication software and data links and detector clearance. What changes were made to address what problems with what rate of success are questions left unanswered by this paper.

A second paper commissioned by AMS and written by Zettl addressed the issue of tamper verification.10 The device has three critical tamper safeguards. The first of these is an infrared (IR) sensor. The device emits an infrared light signal directly at the subject’s skin, and the skin absorbs a given amount of the signal’s energy. The portion of the signal that is reflected back to the device’s receiver is then converted to a voltage. When the device is placed into service, an initial infrared baseline reading is taken. (Interestingly though, no similar baseline is taken to individualize the bracelet’s ability to properly monitor the wearer’s alcohol use). Subsequent signals are compared against this baseline. In theory, if the subject attempts to frustrate the device’s ability to monitor ethanol by inserting a foreign object between the device and the skin, the strength of the reflected infrared signal will increase due to reflection. The device also continuously monitors the subject’s temperature. The theory here is that if the bracelet is tampered with by blocking or removal, the device will detect this tampering by detecting a change in the temperature measurement. The third tamper safeguard is in assuring that the device is not cut-off or otherwise removed. This is accomplished by measuring a small electrical signal that is continuously passed through the front and back straps to both halves of the device. If a break in the electrical signal occurs then the device will generate a message that is sent to the monitoring agency.

Limitations Of The SCRAM Bracelet

The manufacturer readily acknowledges that transdermal alcohol measurements can only be used to estimate the amount of alcohol in a subject’s blood, and therefore, the SCRAM device can only be used to make qualitative rather than a quantitative assessments. This position is supported by the scientific literature.

However, the essential theory of the SCRAM device is that it can detect a drinking episode by comparing its periodic measurements with an expected blood alcohol curve (taking into consideration the absorption, distribution and elimination of alcohol). If the ostensible ethanol measurements rise and fall in a gradual manner, then it is presumed that the measurements can be attributed to the metabolism of beverage alcohol. The manufacturer claims that this curve looks and behaves like a blood alcohol curve, but differently than a curve associated with a non-drinking episode. With an interferant, rather than a gradual rise and fall, the curve will show a rapid peak followed by a rapid falling off. What this essentially means then is that the monitoring agency is relying on the quantitative measurements of the device in creating the curve when it is acknowledged that transdermal measurements are only qualitatively valid.

However, the most pervasive problem with the SCRAM technology is that it is non-specific for beverage alcohol. In published experiments where skin vapor ethanol is measured, a system very similar to that used by SCRAM, the researchers concluded that an effort should be made to exclude extraneous ethanol. Such ethanol can come from a variety of ethanol containing toilet products used by many persons. This non-specificity is due in part to the fact that the measurements are taken above the skin, allowing environmental factors to be inadvertently measured by the device. Perhaps more problematic is that the fact that fuel cells are used to detect the alcohol, and fuel cells are generally non-specific for ethanol, and can potentially respond to other alcohols such as methyl-, isopropyl-, and n-propyl alcohol, and to acetaldehyde. At least in theory, because fuel cells are non-specific, these other types of alcohol, if endogenous, can produce a curve that looks identical to one produced from a verifiable drinking episode.

Another significant limitation is the fact that the entire predicate for distinguishing a drinking episode from a non-drinking episode, which of course is the behavior of the curve, has never been subjected to any legitimate scientific scrutiny. The only testing that has been done was commissioned by AMS, and performed by Zettl. There are no published research studies confirming that the SCRAM device can distinguish between drinking and non-drinking. There are also no published research studies confirming that a non-drinking curve will always contain a rapid rise and fall. In fairness to AMS, one study was published suggesting that the sweat-patch has been shown to be 100 percent specific and sensitive in distinguishing drinkers from non-drinkers. The problem is that this study involved only a small number of individuals who were monitored under tightly controlled circumstances, and needless to say, the sweat patch is not the SCRAM device. Additionally, this study did not address or control the possibility that interferents could be inhaled, ingested or produced endogenously. In these cases one might expect that the interferent curve would closely mimic a drinking curve, thereby reducing both the specificity and sensitivity of this testing method.

Defending The SCRAM Case

Defending one accused of violating a condition of bond or probation based on a SCRAM report requires a thorough understanding of the science behind transdermal alcohol testing, as well as the manner in which the SCRAM bracelet operates. From this research counsel is likely to conclude that transdermal alcohol monitoring has not yet been subjected to an appropriate level of scientific scrutiny, and in order for there to be any likelihood of success this conclusion must be effectively communicated to the Judge. This conclusion appears to be supported by the fact that during development AMS was in competition with Gither, Inc., and their very similar wrist bracelet. Apparently, this competition lead to AMS placing their SCRAM bracelet into service without proper research first having been done.

Once the science is understood, defense counsel must next obtain from the monitoring agency the graphs that ostensibly reflect the drinking episode. The graphs should be accompanied by a linear read-out of each individual TAC reading. The graphs will contain three curves, one each for the infrared signal, the subject’s temperature, and the alleged TAC. These graphs must be scrutinized to determine if in fact the numbers appear to reflect a typical blood alcohol curve, and whether or not any blocking episode actually coincides with the drinking. With respect to an analysis of the blocking aspect, bear in mind the delay in TAC relative to BAC. While it may appear that they coincide, actually they may not, because the infrared signal is in real time while the TAC may actually be attenuated by as much as 120 minutes or more.

It is also helpful to obtain a detailed medical history so that it can be determined if the offender has any medical condition or chemical exposure that could cause a false positive. The accused should also report exactly what they were doing during the entire day before and after the alleged drinking episode, and this history should be examined for possible interferant exposure. If possible, counsel should attempt to match up the medical condition or chemical exposure with the alleged drinking.

If it appears that there is a legitimate argument against drinking, defense counsel should request an evidentiary hearing based on FRE 702 and 703, and if the rules applicable to evidentiary hearings in your State allow, pursuant also to the Daubert and Kumho Tire cases. At the hearing the limitations of the scientific research can be elucidated for the Court.

It is only with this level of advocacy that the judiciary can be properly educated about the significant limitations of the SCRAM device, and if the violation is approached in this way defense counsel should obtain a much higher likelihood of success beating what might otherwise appear to be an unbeatable allegation of drinking.

Management Retreat

We had our management retreat last weekend and got a ton of work done. We met all day Saturday and Sunday – about 7-8 hours of meeting each day. We had fun though too since we drove down to San Diego and went to a Padres game and a nice dinner.