What does it mean to be a surety?

What does it mean to be a surety?

When a person has been charged with a criminal offence, to be released on bail, they may need one or more people to act as their surety. A surety pledges an amount of money that they forfeit if the person they are surety for does not comply with their bail conditions. The idea is that this creates an incentive for the person to comply with their conditions, because they don’t want the surety to lose that money, and that it creates an incentive for the surety to supervise and influence the person to be compliant. Sometimes the bail terms require that the person charged live with their surety and may also require that the surety accompany the person any time they go out. For a court to require a surety means that the court considers the case to be very serious and that the person charged presents a significant risk to either not show up for court or to commit further offences while out on bail if not supervised.


How GPS and alcohol monitoring can help a surety


Recovery Science’s GPS and alcohol monitoring programs can add strength to surety supervision. For example:

  • A court may be concerned that the person charged might leave the house without the surety knowing about it. GPS monitoring will detect when the person leaves the house and RSC will make a report to police.
  • GPS monitoring can help fill gaps in surety supervision, for example when a surety is sleeping or at work.
  • With GPS monitoring, the court may permit the person to have more freedom of movement, for example being able to go to work or school or be out during the day within a defined area, reducing the burden on the surety of having to be with the person all the time.
  • A court may permit a person with GPS monitoring to live on their own instead of requiring that they live with their surety.
  • When a person’s criminal behaviour is associated with alcohol abuse, including continuous alcohol monitoring or remote breath testing in the supervision plan may help the person be released on bail and helps the surety by being an independent source for knowing whether or not the person is drinking.

Being a surety is a serious commitment with risks


Being a surety is a serious matter and involves the potential to forfeit a large amount of money. When asked to be a surety, a person may feel pressure to say yes to help someone they care for get out of jail. Once a person is acting as a surety,  they find themselves in the very difficult situation of needing to report someone they care for to the police for violating their bail conditions. Sureties may feel pressure not to report violations to the police or even to lie to the police to cover for the person they are surety for. This can expose the surety not only to the loss of money but of facing criminal charges themselves. It is therefore important that sureties fully understand the commitments they are making when they agree to be a surety.


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How to Resolve Family Law Disputes Involving Allegations of Alcohol Abuse

How to Resolve Family Law Disputes Involving Allegations of Alcohol Abuse

Drinking too much while caring for children creates an obvious risk of abuse or neglect. It can lead to a parent losing custody and seeing their children only while supervised.  Because the stakes are so high and because it can be so difficult to prove or disprove whether a parent really does drink to the point of placing their children at risk, allegations of alcohol abuse in a custody proceeding or a children’s aid investigation can create extremely challenging problems.


The challenges of proving or disproving allegations of alcohol abuse by a parent

There may be a report, whether from the other parent,  another family member, or someone from the community, of serious alcohol abuse by a parent. That parent may deny the allegations altogether or say they are exaggerated, that it was a one-time thing that won’t happen again, or they may acknowledge they once had a problem but have it under control. A parent who knows the other parent drinks too much while caring for the children can be genuinely fearful for the children’s safety and frustrated by the inability to prove it in the face of denials. A parent who knows they don’t drink too much while parenting can be at a total loss about how to prove that they are sober or drink responsibly and devastated by having their relationships with their children unjustly interfered with. Even if everyone agrees that the parent’s drinking has been a problem and that the parent is now doing all the right things to seek treatment and change their behavior, because relapses can be expected, there can still be concern about the children’s safety as the parent moves through the process of treatment and recovery.

Children’s aid society workers, lawyers, judges, and mediators all face the difficult challenge of establishing an objective basis for a solution that helps the family move forward in a way that balances child safety with minimal disruption to the parent-child relationship. In the past, urine testing, blood testing, and hair testing have all been tried as ways of providing objective evidence of whether a parent is or isn’t drinking. All of these methods of testing have known flaws that can waste time and money and still leave everyone dissatisfied.


The flaws of urine, blood and hair testing for alcohol

Because of the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body, urine testing and blood testing can’t realistically be done frequently enough to provide satisfactory proof one way or the other about a person’s actual drinking behavior. People also have concerns that urine testing can be fooled and the response to that, supervised urine testing, besides missing drinking events, has the obvious potential to be experienced as humiliating and demeaning. In addition to the cost of the testing, going for blood and urine tests often means that the person being tested has to incur expenses for travel or lose income from taking time off work. This creates pressure to stop the testing before it has been done long enough for those concerned to feel confident that the person’s drinking behavior is known and under control. Because of the doubts left by the flaws in these forms of testing, the parent trying to prove they are sober often ends up frustrated because they’ve done all this testing and people still don’t believe them.

Hair testing for alcohol also has known problems. Most notoriously, the widespread use of hair testing by the Motherisk Lab at Toronto’s Sick Kids’ Hospital became subject of a formal review and special commission because of serious flaws in its testing methodology and the interpretation and use of the results it produced. Even when hair testing is done properly, it can involve waiting many months to obtain results and those results provide only averaged data that do not give a clear picture of a person’s actual drinking behavior. Hair testing is therefore not helpful at all for distinguishing between someone who binge drinks and someone who regularly drinks only moderate amounts, or as a way of enabling unsupervised parenting time. Hair testing therefore also can leave everyone feeling frustrated and dissatisfied.


Two technologies that provide a better way of testing

So, with all of these challenges, how can situations involving allegations of parental alcohol abuse be dealt with better? The key lies in the quality and timeliness of information about whether a parent is drinking or not. A form of testing that provides timely results and an accurate picture of a parent’s actual drinking behavior would create the opportunity for those concerned about a parent’s possible excessive drinking, as well as the parent who wants to prove that they abstain or drink responsibly, to agree on solutions that leave them all feeling confident and fairly dealt with.  Two technologies that make this possible are continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) and remote breath testing (RB).


Remote breath testing for alcohol multiple times per day or around parenting times

We all know about breath testing for alcohol. RB is a portable, handheld breath testing device that takes a picture of the person as they provide the breath sample and then, using the cellular data system, automatically uploads the test result and photo. In a secure, cloud-based software platform, the times when tests are required are scheduled, the test results are received, facial recognition confirms that the right person provided the breath sample, and notifications are sent out by email or text to alert specified individuals of the results. Tests can be scheduled as many times per day as needed to suit the circumstances. A solution can be crafted that includes the parent testing multiple times per day every day to build up a record of sobriety and to enable children to remain in their care, while giving those concerned the assurance that if the parent drinks, they will know about it. Tests can be timed to be done before the beginning of access visits or parenting time and testing can be required at regular intervals during the visit or parenting time.


Testing for alcohol every 30 minutes 24/7 with CAM

For some cases, CAM may be the better fit. When we consume alcohol, in the same way that the body processes some of it out in breath vapor, some is processed out in the perspiration vapor that is always coming off our skin. This vapor can be tested just like breath in order to measure the level of the alcohol in the body. By embedding the technology for testing perspiration vapor for alcohol in a secure ankle bracelet,  CAM enables a person to passively provide tests every 30 minutes, 24/7. This creates a compelling record of a parent’s actual drinking behavior, whether that behavior reflects complete sobriety, moderate drinking, or drinking that is problematic. Wirelessly, the bracelet sends its test results to a small base station placed in the person’s home, and the base station uses a landline or internet connection to upload the results to the monitoring software. A reporting protocol is established for any detected drinking, and summary or detailed compliance reports are produced as needed.

RB and CAM enable parents, and the professionals assisting them, to respond to concerns of alcohol abuse in ways that meet the unique needs of each case, in ways that are respectful and fair, that achieve a practical balance between keeping children safe and minimizing disruption to the parent-child relationship.


Future posts – case studies

In future posts,  we’ll provide case studies illustrating how these technologies can help parents and everyone involved in these difficult situations. In the meantime, contact us to learn more and explore how RSC can help you create a solution for your case.

Electronic monitoring in Canada – what’s available when and why does it matter?

Electronic monitoring in Canada – what’s available when and why does it matter?

The provinces and federal government operate a mixed bag of electronic monitoring programs. The programs vary in significant respects. First, let’s summarize which governments operate programs, what type of monitoring they use and whether the monitoring is used pre-conviction, post-conviction, or both.

Government Programs

“GPS” refers to an ankle bracelet system that uses the Global Positioning System to continuously track the wearer; “RF” refers to an ankle bracelet system that uses a radio-frequency “tether” to monitor whether the wearer is home or not home; “pre-conviction” refers to bail, also known as pre-trial release or judicial interim release; and “post-conviction” refers to the various forms of community supervision that can follow a conviction, such as conditional sentence orders, temporary absences, probation and/or parole.

  • BC – GPS, pre- and post-conviction;
  • Alberta – no program;
  • Saskatchewan – RF, pre- and post-conviction;
  • Manitoba – no program;
  • Ontario – RF, post-conviction;
  • Quebec – no program;
  • Nova Scotia – GPS, post-conviction ;
  • New Brunswick – RF and GPS, post-conviction;
  • PEI – GPS, post-conviction;
  • Newfoundland and Labrador – GPS, post-conviction (pilot);
  • Nunavut – no program;
  • NWT – no program;
  • Yukon – no program; and
  • Correctional Service of Canada – GPS, post-conviction (the Canada Border Services Agency also uses GPS bracelets borrowed from CSC for immigration matters).


How a program is organized can have a significant impact on people

The government-operated programs that do exist vary in their policy objectives and parameters such as eligibility criteria and decision-making roles and processes. All of these differences have important implications for people charged with and convicted of criminal offences. Having the right technology available at the right stage of the criminal justice process can determine whether a person is held in remand custody or released on bail, whether they are able to obtain a conditional sentence instead of serving jail time, and, at the end of a custodial sentence, whether they are released earlier than they otherwise would be.

Difficult choices and differing perceptions

Electronic monitoring presents a number of challenges for governments when they are trying to decide whether and when to use it, which lead them to reach very different conclusions, and help to explain the variations we see in programming decisions. For example, at the same time that BC, Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI and New Brunswick were deciding to move forward with new programs, Alberta and Manitoba were deciding to discontinue theirs.

RSC’s non-government programs help fill the gaps

Recovery Science (RSC) operates Canada’s largest non-government electronic monitoring program. RSC offers programs using GPS, RF, and alcohol monitoring technologies, available both pre-conviction and post-conviction. RSC’s programs help fill the many gaps created when a suitable government program is not available.

Our GPS monitoring program has helped over 800 people obtain bail, with most of those being in Ontario. We know there are many more people in remand custody across the country who, if they, their families, and/or their lawyers were aware of our programs,  would be able to put together a plan of supervision that could meet the legal tests for bail. In smaller numbers, our programs have helped people obtain conditional sentences, but with the concept proven, like bail, we know there are many more people across Canada who could serve their sentence in the community instead of in jail with the appropriate form of monitoring as part of their plan.

Future posts will take a closer look at the variations among the government-run electronic monitoring programs, the implications of those differences, and provide examples of how RSC’s programs can help when a government program is not available.

How RSC’s Alcohol Monitoring Programs Can Help in Criminal Cases

How RSC’s Alcohol Monitoring Programs Can Help in Criminal Cases

Since 2010, about 30 people facing criminal charges involving alcohol have achieved a better outcome by participating in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring programs. These cases have involved diverse factual situations and charges ranging from repeated instances of mischief to impaired driving causing death to murder. We believe there are many more cases in Canada where our alcohol monitoring programs can help.

Alcohol monitoring can help in a number of ways. The first thing that may come to mind for many people is that monitoring would be used in combination with a condition that the person abstain from consuming alcohol. This is certainly one way that monitoring can be used, but there are others which may not be as immediately apparent.

Evidence of sobriety

For example, in making submissions in support of a shorter jail sentence or a conditional sentence that can be served in the community, we often hear defence counsel advise the court that their client has been sober for some period of time. In many cases, the person’s self-report is the only evidence available to support this submission. Imagine if defence counsel could say to the court, “my client has been tested every thirty minutes, 24/7, for the past 6 months, and I have a report showing that every one of those tests was negative for alcohol consumption.” This is exactly what participating in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring program can make possible.

Risk management

A person with a history of criminal charges associated with alcohol can leave the court in a quandary when considering an application for bail or a proposal for a conditional sentence. The court may see prohibiting the person from consuming alcohol as the only way to reduce the risk that they will get into trouble in the community, but may lack confidence that they will be able to abstain. In such cases, including participation in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring program as part of the plan of supervision can tip the balance in favour of the person being released or allowed to serve their sentence in the community. This is because the monitoring (a) can help the person abstain, because they know that, if they drink, it will be reported and (b) gives the court the comfort of knowing that, if the person does begin to drink, they won’t be able to do so repeatedly before anyone knows about it, because it will be detected and reported the first time they drink.


In some cases, the court’s quandary is even more difficult, because the court is concerned that the person simply won’t be able to abstain from consuming alcohol and that a court order requiring them to abstain will just lead to inevitable breach charges. The court may then be left with the impression that it has only two options, neither of which seems to satisfactorily serve the interests of justice  –  to keep the person in jail or to let them be in the community without a requirement that they abstain from alcohol. This is where RSC’s Soberleave program can help. With Soberleave, we combine alcohol monitoring with location monitoring, enabling a third option – the person who is dependent on alcohol can consume it, but to control the risk that creates, they are only permitted to consume alcohol at home and must be alcohol-free when outside the home.

Real Life Examples

While the number of cases in which RSC alcohol monitoring programs is still relatively small, the human stories involved have been quite profound. For example, in our very first case, a man with a history of alcohol-related offences, including assaults, mischief, and breaches, had been denied bail due to concerns that “if left unchecked and simply on the strength of a promise, he would lapse back to alcohol abuse” and commit more offences. With a new plan that included participation in RSC’s SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring program,  he was granted pre-trial release. This allowed him to be with his wife and children instead of in jail while awaiting trial, while ensuring that if he began to drink, the court would know.

Another young man faced charges of aggravated assault and attempted murder arising from multiple incidents during which he was intoxicated. The court noted that when he was intoxicated and experiencing jealousy, he lost control. His lawyers helped him bring together a plan of supervision that included residential treatment and dual GPS/alcohol monitoring, which satisfied the court that he could be released on bail so that he could get the help he needed for his addictions and mental health issues while awaiting trial, while ensuring detection if he did not comply with his conditions.

In another case, a man charged with impaired driving, and a record that included four previous convictions for impaired driving and convictions for refusing to provide a breath sample and driving while prohibited, had been denied bail. With a new plan that included participation in RSC’s SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring program,  he was granted pre-trial release. At his sentencing, the record of eight months sobriety he had established through the CAM program’s 48 tests per day helped him obtain a conditional sentence. His wife told the court that the program had helped him because he knew he could no longer hide his drinking, which led to him not drinking and to dramatic  improvements in his relationships with her and their children.

These are just a few examples. In every case involving alcohol abuse and serious criminal charges, everyone involved is experiencing very difficult challenges, including the accused, the victim, their families, and the professionals trying to support them and see that the interests of justice are served. In many cases, alcohol monitoring may be able to help contribute to better outcomes.

Two technologies

RSC’s alcohol monitoring programs include continuous alcohol monitoring with the SCRAM ankle bracelet with tests every 30 minutes 24/7, and remote breath testing on a schedule of multiple tests per day.

Toronto Star feature on GPS for bail

Toronto Star feature on GPS for bail

Electronic monitoring has long been a fixture in the U.S. justice system, where tens of thousands of accused criminals wear GPS-monitoring bracelets — not just celebrities such as Weinstein. But GPS monitoring is also becoming more common in Canada, with growing acceptance by judges and justices of the peace that the devices can be another safeguard in a release plan.

Read article on theworldnews.net

Electronic monitoring can tip the scales in difficult cases

Electronic monitoring can tip the scales in difficult cases

Electronic monitoring is an important factor that courts consider when deciding whether to grant bail to a person who might otherwise be detained.

When someone knows that their compliance is monitored 24/7, it changes the calculus.

If the wearer knows that violations will be detected and reported to the police, a person — who might otherwise be considered a risk to violate conditions — is more likely to comply. Plus, all breaches are documented, and that evidence can then be used against the person in future hearings.

So, the shift for the court’s analysis is from trusting that a person will not commit a violation, to trusting that a person comprehends the deterrent.

RSC has demonstrated a credible, reliable program that can make the difference between pre-trial release and detention in many cases. The proof is in the 750 bails, granted across seven provinces, that have included monitoring by RSC.

Without a way of monitoring compliance, prosecutors and courts are often left with the difficult and subjective task of assessing the degree to which the accused can be trusted to comply with release conditions. RSC’s programs can help shift that subjectivity into something more objective.

First, it changes the standard from a subjective assessment that the accused is likely to honour his or her bail terms, to objective monitoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The shift is from attempting to subjectively quantify confidence that a person will not violate their conditions — even though the risk of detection is low — to assessing the impact on them knowing that detection is certain.

For example, knowing that being late for curfew — or going to a location specifically prohibited by the court — will be detected and reported becomes a powerful motivator to comply with release conditions.

Risk is generally intertwined with the likelihood of detection. Speeding is one analogy. Adherence to a posted speed limit can be correlated with how certain detection is. Drivers are less likely to speed in locations where they know police enforcement mechanisms are in place.

Monitoring has made the difference even in cases where the accused has a history of failures to comply with release conditions when not being monitored. Electronic monitoring increases the court’s confidence that even if an accused has breached conditions in the past — without monitoring — they will be less likely to breach while being monitored.

Where a person has taken risks because he calculates the chances of being caught as being low, the monitoring changes the analysis.

In addition to encouraging compliance with specific conditions, such as curfew or permitted exceptions to a house arrest, GPS monitoring is also a deterrent to a person committing offences where the record of their location would link them to the offence.