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How to Fight a Positive Drug Test in the Military

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Military service members are no strangers to drug tests. Most service members know that returning to their unit following a holiday break or period of leave will more than likely bring the submission of a drug test. This is because all branches of the military possess a “Zero Tolerance” approach to the use of drugs. For this reason, a military notification of failed drug test might make you feel as if your military career is over. This is not always the case. With an experienced military drug testing lawyer, there are ways to fight a positive drug test. 

In this post, The Wilkie Law Group will inform you of how to fight a positive drug test in the military

Military Drug Testing

The military has a Zero Tolerance Policy for drug use. To ensure an alert and responsive fighting force, the Department of Defense (DoD) conducts military drug testing regularly. They do this through the use of urinalysis testing to monitor the presence of any controlled substance. The Department of Defense (DoD) labs conduct rigorous testing on approximately 60,000 random urine samples each month as part of their comprehensive drug testing program. 

This extensive testing procedure is not limited to just the Air Force; it encompasses a wide range of military branches, including the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, and Navy, where military personnel are subject to similar stringent drug testing protocols. In addition to these branches, members of the National Guard and the Reserves are also required to undergo drug testing once every two years. This systematic approach underscores the DoD’s commitment to maintaining a drug-free military environment across all branches and units.

How The Military Drug Testing Process Works

In the military, service members selected for testing are notified and typically must report to the testing site within a short time frame. Urine samples are then collected under controlled and observed conditions to prevent tampering or substitution. The collection process is designed to respect the individual’s privacy while ensuring the integrity of the sample.

After military members take a drug test, they will get sent to the lab. Once the sample arrives, it will undergo an immunoassay screening. This will indicate the presence of drugs as either negative or positive. If a positive urinalysis test is present, a second test will be conducted to confirm accuracy.

If the test appears positive after both tests, the sample will go through a much more specific type of screening. The screening, called a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test, can identify specific substances within the sample. The test must reach a certain level to be positive. Even if there is a particular drug in someone’s system, if the level is below a certain threshold, it will come back as negative. If the test does reach that level and is positive, this signifies that the service member failed the drug test. Confirmed positive results are reported through the chain of command and can lead to administrative or disciplinary action.

How to Fight a Failed Military Drug Test

There are a few ways to fight allegedly positive tests in the military. One way is to prove that the service member unknowingly ingested the drug. If a test comes back positive, the government must have more evidence than just that urinalysis was positive. They must be able to prove that the reason for the positive result was because the individual consciously ingested an illegal substance. If the member consumed the substance without prior knowledge, it is not considered misconduct and may allow an unknowing/innocent ingestion defense.

There is also the possibility that there were collection or testing errors made while handling the service member’s sample, which led to a false positive or otherwise inaccurate results. The DoD provides very detailed and specific instructions for how test administrators should conduct and handle each screening. Any deviation from these instructions, no matter how slight, can cast doubt on the accuracy of the results.

At The Wilkie Law Group, Marine Corps veteran Aden Wilkie knows the ins and outs of how military drug testing must take place. He will comb through each record and document to ensure that every instruction was properly met. If there is a chance that errors were made in the collection, testing, or handling of your urine sample, our military drug crime attorney will find them.

Military Drug Test FAQs

How Often Does the Military Conduct Drug Tests?

Each branch of the U.S. military conducts random drug testing, but the frequency and protocols can vary. However, each unit is required to test all of its active duty service members at least once per year. 

The frequency of testing can be influenced by various factors, including command directives, specific unit requirements, medical testing, or individual suspicion. Additionally, all service members can be subjected to drug testing when there is probable cause or following an incident.

What Does the Military Drug Test For? 

These screenings can indicate the presence of a number of illicit substances, including marijuana, cocaine, LSD, opiates, amphetamines, barbiturates, and PCP. However, not every sample will always test for these all at once. Instead, each sample will test for marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines. Tests for other types of drugs occur at random and on varying schedules for each lab. 

How Accurate are Military Drug Tests?

There are several protections that the military takes to ensure the test results are accurate. To start, each individual must write their initials on the label of their own bottle. There is also someone present to observe the service member while they urinate into their bottle to ensure they do not try to cheat. The bottles are then boxed into batches, and the person responsible for administering the test will begin a chain-of-custody document for each batch. 

The chain of custody is a legal document that requires anyone who’s had contact with the bottle to sign. This may be anyone from the observer to the person who puts the bottle in the box as well as the person who takes it out. Essentially, the document provides a written record of anyone at all who had direct contact with the urine sample at any time. The names of each person and what they did to the sample must appear in this document to ensure its accuracy.

Is it Possible to Get a False Positive Drug Test in the Military?

Yes, it is possible to receive a false positive result on a drug test in the military. False positives can occur due to a variety of factors, including but not limited to the ingestion of certain legal, over-the-counter, or prescription drugs. Here are some key points regarding false positives in military drug testing:

  • Cross-Reactivity: Some legal substances can cross-react with the drug testing chemicals, leading to a false positive. 
  • Prescription Medications: Legal drugs prescribed for legitimate medical reasons, such as certain painkillers, ADHD medications, or antidepressants, might have components or metabolites that are similar to those of illicit drugs.
  • Over-the-Counter Medications: Common over-the-counter products like cold and flu medications, nasal decongestants, and some herbal remedies can sometimes lead to false positives.
  • Dietary Supplements: Certain ingredients in dietary supplements might interfere with drug tests.

Can You Retake a Military Drug Test?

An active duty service member is generally not able to retake a failed drug test. Only applicants looking to join the military can retake a failed drug test. 

At the discretion of the branch of service, new recruits who test positive on a drug screening are able to reapply while at a Military Entry Processing Station (MEPS). They may do so only after 90 days have passed since the previous test. Applicants who fail a drug test twice are automatically and permanently disqualified from serving in any branch of the military.

What Happens When You Fail a Drug Test in the Military?

Failing a drug test in the military can lead to serious repercussions, including non-judicial punishment, adverse separation with varying types of administrative discharge, or even a court-martial with more severe penalties like imprisonment. The specific consequences depend on factors like the service member’s rank, record, and circumstances of the drug use. Additionally, a failed drug test can negatively impact one’s military career and future civilian employment opportunities, especially in roles requiring security clearance.

What Kind of Discharge for Failing Drug Test?

The type of discharge given to a military member for testing positive on a drug test can vary depending on the circumstances and the policies of the specific branch of service, but the most common discharge for a failed drug test is Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge.

Air Force members, either non-commissioned officers or officers, who test positive for hard drugs like LSD, cocaine, MDMA, etc., will most likely face court-martial charges. Airmen or other lower-ranking members who test positive for marijuana often face nonjudicial punishment in accordance to Article 15 and discharge. Navy or Marine Corps members who fail a drug test will likely face Mast/NJP and an administrative discharge proceeding. Army and Coast Guard members of any ranking generally face Nonjudicial punishment in accordance with Article 15 and an administrative discharge.

How Long Does it Take For a Drug Test to Come Back in the Military?

There is never a definite answer for how long military drug test results take. Generally though, if the drug test results are negative, it will often take somewhere between 1 to 3 days to come back. For the military notification of failed drug test time frame, it may take a bit longer. A failed military drug test will often take 3-5 days from the time the sample arrives at the lab. Results, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative, get posted to the web portal for program managers.

Why Should I Hire a Civilian Attorney Instead of Active Military Counsel?

To protect your career, your future, and your name, hiring a civilian lawyer versus a military lawyer after you’ve allegedly tested positive is a much better option for several reasons. For one, when you accept free military defense counsel, your case is assigned to a lawyer simply based on whoever is available at the moment. That means your own personal preferences will not be taken into account. When you hire outside legal counsel from a private civilian criminal defense attorney, you have the ability to choose someone who you trust and feel comfortable with. 

Another advantage of hiring a civilian defense attorney is that they are not subject to intimidation or threats the way military defense attorneys often are. Things like the chain of command, ranking, and supervisory chain of responsibility have no power over private attorneys. 

Yet another major benefit to hiring civilian counsel is the knowledge that they are 100% dedicated to your case and will put in the necessary time and effort to create the strongest possible defense. As a private attorney who works for no one but himself, Aden Wilkie can choose which cases he takes and when he takes them. He is careful to never overload his schedule so that he can dedicate enough time and resources to the cases he chooses. Military-provided counsel does not have this same luxury. They are responsible for taking any case that comes through their door, which often means they are overworked and likely, overwhelmed. As a result, they have much less time to focus on your individual case, which in turn can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case.

Contact The Devil Dog Defender For Help Fighting Your Military Drug Test Today

If you’re wondering how to fight a positive test result for drugs in the military or if it’s even possible, stop what you’re doing and call experienced military defense attorney Aden Wilkie today. At The Wilkie Law Group, we aggressively and effectively advocate for military service members of all branches. Due to his unique background, Aden Wilkie has a special understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding the military justice system. He is well-suited to help members of the military when they need legal support the most, such as fighting positive results on a drug test.

Failing a positive military drug test doesn’t mean your career has to end. Contact military defense lawyer Aden Wilkie today by calling 910-333-9626. You can also visit our website to request your consultation.

Located in Jacksonville, Wilkie serves the entire state of North Carolina as well as its surrounding states. He is also able to service any military installation located in the United States, but travel fees will apply. If you’re located at Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, or any other military installation, you need the Devil Dog Defender on your side.

Hire The Best

It is crucial for you to have an experienced criminal defense and military attorney on your side. Contact us today at 910-333-9626 for a consultation and decide for yourself if The Wilkie Law Group is the best choice for you.

Jacksonville, NC Military & Criminal Defense Attorney