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Defenses to Urinalysis Drug Cases: Potential Defenses

Defenses to Urinalysis Drug Cases Urinalysis Defenses military defense attorneysUrinalysis drug testing is a common method used by employers, law enforcement, and the military to detect the presence of illicit substances in an individual’s system. While these tests are widely regarded as reliable, several defenses are available to challenge the results of a urinalysis drug test. This article explores the potential flaws in urinalysis testing and outlines various defenses, such as laboratory errors, contamination, procedural mistakes, and innocent ingestion.

Understanding Urinalysis Drug Testing in the Military

Urinalysis involves analyzing urine samples to detect the presence of drugs or their metabolites. The process typically involves initial screening tests, such as immunoassay, followed by confirmatory tests, like gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) or high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), to verify positive results. Despite the sophistication of these tests, they are not infallible, and several factors can lead to false positives or erroneous results. The possible defenses to urinalysis drug cases vary depending on the facts of the case.

Potential Flaws in Urinalysis Testing

1. Laboratory Errors: Laboratories handling drug tests must adhere to strict protocols to ensure accuracy. However, human error, equipment malfunction, or contamination can result in incorrect test results. Errors may occur during sample collection, labeling, transportation, or analysis.

2. Contamination: Sample cross-contamination can lead to false positives. This can happen if the equipment used is improperly cleaned between tests or samples are accidentally mixed. Environmental contaminants, such as residue from cleaning products, can also interfere with the test results.

3. Chain of Custody Issues: The chain of custody refers to the documented process that tracks the handling of the sample from collection to analysis. Breaks in this chain, such as improper documentation or unauthorized access to the sample, can compromise the integrity of the test results.

4. False Positives: Certain medications, foods, and medical conditions can cause false positives in drug tests. For example, poppy seeds can result in positive tests for opiates, and some over-the-counter medications can trigger positive results for amphetamines or benzodiazepines.

Possible Defenses Against Urinalysis Drug Test Results

Laboratory Errors and Procedural Mistakes: Defenses to Urinalysis Drug Cases

Challenging the accuracy of laboratory procedures is a common defense. This involves scrutinizing the handling of the sample and the testing process. If any errors or deviations from standard protocols are identified, it can cast doubt on the validity of the test results. Key aspects to examine include:

  1. Sample Collection: Was the sample collected according to proper procedures? Were there any opportunities for contamination or mishandling?
  2. Sample Labeling: Was the sample correctly labeled and tracked throughout the process? Any mix-ups or mislabeling can result in incorrect test results.
  3. Testing Process: Were the testing machines properly calibrated and maintained? Were the tests conducted by qualified personnel?

Contamination: Defenses to Urinalysis Drug Cases

The sample can be contaminated at various stages, from collection to analysis. Defendants can argue that their sample was contaminated by environmental factors or mishandling in the laboratory. For instance, if the sample collection site was not properly sanitized, substances present in the environment could contaminate the sample.

Chain of Custody Issues: Defenses to Urinalysis Drug Cases

The chain of custody must be meticulously documented to ensure the sample’s integrity. If there are gaps or inconsistencies in the chain of custody documentation, it can be argued that the sample may have been tampered with or mishandled. This defense focuses on the possibility that the sample was compromised between collection and analysis.

False Positives Due to Medications or Foods: Defenses to Urinalysis Drug Cases

Certain foods and medications can cause false positives in urinalysis tests. Defendants can present evidence that they consumed substances known to cause false positives. For example:

  1. Poppy Seeds: Consuming poppy seed-containing foods can result in positive tests for opiates. Defendants can provide evidence of recent consumption to explain the test results.
  2. Over-the-counter medications: Some cold medications, weight loss supplements, and other over-the-counter drugs can trigger false positives for amphetamines or other substances.

Innocent Ingestion: Defenses to Urinalysis Drug Cases

Innocent ingestion occurs when an individual unknowingly consumes a substance that results in a positive drug test. This can happen through various means, such as:

  1. Passive Inhalation: Being near drug users can result in passive inhalation of substances like marijuana, leading to positive test results.
  2. Contaminated Food or Drink: Consuming food or beverages contaminated with drugs can also result in positive tests.

To use innocent ingestion as a defense, the defendant must provide credible evidence that they were unknowingly exposed to the substance. This may involve witness testimony, receipts, or other documentation. Contact our military defense lawyers today to discuss defenses to urinalysis drug cases.

Legal and Strategic Considerations When Defending a Urinalysis Drug Test

When facing a positive urinalysis drug test, it is crucial to approach the defense strategically. Here are some important considerations:

  1. Hire an Experienced Attorney: An attorney with expertise in drug testing and forensic science can provide valuable guidance and representation. They can help identify potential flaws in the testing process and build a robust defense.
  2. Gather Evidence: Collecting and presenting evidence is crucial to challenging the test results. This may include medical records, witness statements, receipts, and any other documentation that supports the defense.
  3. Expert Testimony: Expert witnesses, such as forensic toxicologists, can testify to urinalysis testing limitations and potential errors. Their insights can be instrumental in challenging the accuracy of the test results.
  4. Cross-Examine Witnesses: During legal proceedings, it is important to cross-examine the individuals involved in the testing process. This includes laboratory technicians, collection personnel, and any other relevant parties. Effective cross-examination can uncover inconsistencies and weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
  5. Review Testing Protocols: Reviewing the laboratory’s testing protocols and procedures can reveal deviations from standard practices. Any identified deviations can be used to question the reliability of the test results.

Hiring a Military Defense Lawyer with Experience Defending Urinalysis Drug Tests

Urinalysis drug testing, while widely used and generally reliable, has flaws. Laboratory errors, contamination, false positives, and chain of custody issues can all lead to incorrect test results. Understanding these potential flaws and employing strategic defenses can help individuals effectively challenge positive urinalysis drug tests.

When facing such allegations, it is essential to seek the assistance of experienced legal professionals who can navigate the complexities of drug testing and forensic science. By meticulously examining the testing process, gathering evidence, and presenting a compelling defense, individuals can protect their rights and challenge the validity of the test results. Contact our military defense attorneys today to discuss defenses to urinalysis drug cases.

Authority Citations on Defending Urinalysis Drug Tests

For additional information on urinalysis drug testing and related legal defenses, consider visiting the following reputable sources:

These resources provide valuable insights into drug testing methodologies, potential issues, and legal considerations.

Case Law on Defending Urinalysis Drug Tests

  • Passive inhalation. For this defense to be successful, a Soldier generally must have been exposed to concentrated drug smoke in a small area for a significant period of time. See Major Wayne E. Anderson, Judicial Notice in Urinalysis Cases, Army Law., Sept. 1988, at 19
  • Innocent ingestion.
    • United States v. Ford, 23 M.J. 331 (C.M.A. 1987). Accused suggested wife planted marijuana in his food without his knowledge.
    • United States v. Prince, 24 M.J. 643 (A.F.C.M.R.1987). Accused’s wife allegedly put cocaine in his drink without his knowledge to improve his sexual performance.
    • United States v. Robertson, 39 M.J. 211 (C.M.A. 1994). The accused’s roommate testified that she put cocaine in beer, which the accused unwittingly drank. The government improperly cross-examined the roommate on prior arrest for conspiracy and attempted burglary, but the error was harmless.
  • Innocent inhalation.
    • United States v. Perry, 37 M.J. 363 (C.M.A. 1993). The Accused’s explanation that he unwittingly smoked a filtered cigarette laced with cocaine 28 hours before test was not credible, given the expert’s testimony that (1) accused would have to ingest an almost toxic dose of cocaine to achieve the 98,000 ng/ml test result his sample yielded, and (2) cocaine mixed with a cigarette would not work since cocaine will not vaporize or pass through a filter. Erroneous admission of evidence that the accused acted as the informant was harmless.
    • United States v. Gilbert, 40 M.J. 652 (N.M.C.M.R. 1994). The accused allegedly borrowed cigarettes from a civilian, which, unknown to the accused, contained marijuana. At trial, the civilian refused to answer questions about what the cigarettes contained. Defense counsel was ineffective for not seeking to immunize the civilian.
    • Innocent absorption through contact with drugs on currency: unlikely to be a successful defense. See Mahmoud A. ElSohly, Ph.D., Letter to the See: Urinalysis and Casual Handling of Marijuana and Cocaine, 15 J. Analytical Toxicology 46 (1991).
  • Use of hemp related products. Hemp products come from the same plant as marijuana. See The Art of Trial Advocacy, Tips in Hemp Product Cases, Army Law., Dec. 1998, at 30. Note: AR 600-85, para. 4-2p, prohibits the ingestion of products containing hemp and hemp oil.
  • Switched Samples (“chain of custody” broken).
    • United States v. Gonzales, 37 M.J. 456 (C.M.A. 1993). Where the observer had no recollection of how the urine was transferred from one container to another but testified that the urine was never out of her sight, the military judge properly overruled the chain of custody objection.
    • United States v. Montijo, No. 30385, 1994 WL 379793 (A.F.C.M.R. June 28, 1994) (unpublished). The government was not required to establish a chain of custody for sample bottles from their manufacture until their use.
  • Laboratory Error
    • Unites States v. Manuel, 43 M.J. 282 (C.A.A.F. 1995). Urinalysis test results were improperly admitted when the laboratory failed to retain the accused’s positive urine sample after the test was completed. The regulation requiring retention of the sample conferred substantive rights upon the accused. The conviction was set aside.
    • Problems at Fort Meade Laboratory. On 24 July 1995, the Fort Meade Forensic Toxicology Drug Testing Laboratory commander discovered that lab technicians had violated procedures by switching quality control samples. Since the GC/MS tests were unaffected, all positive test results were still scientifically supportable.
  • Good Military Character. United States v. Vandelinder, 20 M.J. 41, 47 (C.M.A. 1985). Good military character is pertinent to drug charges against an accused because it may generate reasonable doubt in the fact-finder’s mind.
  • Specific Instances of Non-Drug Use to Rebut Permissive Inference. In United States v. Brewer, 61 M.J. 425 (C.A.A.F. 2005), the defense requested four witnesses to testify that they knew MSgt Brewer and that they had never seen MSgt Brewer smoke marijuana as part of the defense “mosaic” innocent ingestion defense. The military judge denied the proffered witness testimony, ruling that this was improper character evidence under Mil. R. Evid. 405, as specific instances of conduct of non-use. The CAAF held that the military judge erred in denying the requested witnesses because it was relevant. Findings and sentences are set aside.
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