How to fight a positive drug test in the military.
Failed urinalysis and positive drug tests are some of the most common charges faced by military officials. All members of the military are tested frequently for drug use, from applicants to new recruits and veterans.
A positive urinalysis is usually told to the member a few weeks after the test was carried out and consequences of a failed test range from an Article 15 and written reprimands, to more serious administrative action like court-martial and administrative separation.
The use of banned or illegal substances is highly frowned upon by the military and most offenders have drug cases built against them, all based on a lab test which may or may not have been carried out properly. So what are the effective defenses against a failed urinalysis?
The first step to proving your innocence is acting innocent and smart. Some military units are notorious for vivaciously pursuing drug cases and it is of utmost importance that you say and do nothing till you have a competent military lawyer to take up your case. Making oral or written statements without proper guidance could only land you in further hot water as your statement under significant duress could be taken out of context.
A huge part of acting innocent is co-operation. Once you have a military lawyer by your side, your rights and the severity of your case should appear much more clearer to you. A minor case, if found guilty may lead to an Article 15 and while it’s not as serious as having to prove your innocence before a court-martial, it’s a huge stain on your military record. You should co-operate with your legal advisers and chain of command adequately to ensure your case doesn’t escalate further.
Your prospects might seem bleak, but keep in mind that the onus is on the government to prove that you knowingly ingested or inhaled an illegal substance. Without significant evidence to this effect, their claims would not be substantial enough to warrant an Article 15 or a court-martial, as a failed urinalysis result is not considered as definitive proof of misconduct.
Common forms of defense.
The most frequent form of defense in military drug cases is pleading ignorant to intake of the substance. This is trying to prove that you unintentionally or unknowingly ingested the substance in question. Article 112 (a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice implies that the use of illegal substances is only prohibited when it is wrongful. The use of a drug cannot be considered wrongful when it was used unknowingly.
A positive urinalysis could stem from a dietary supplement, food, medicine or herb which you had no idea contained a controlled substance. It could also come from passively inhaling of any such substance and all it takes is for you and your attorney to present a strong and compelling case, with clear details and drug levels consistent with accidental exposure to alleviate you of any wrongdoing.
Another way of defending your drug case from being furthered is by questioning the accuracy of the test. It must be noted that urinary tests are often false and error-prone. You can seek another urinary test or other alternatives as lab errors and labelling mistakes are common in military drug cases.
Depending on the factors surrounding the test like time, the specific drug and the nature of the allegations, it may be in your best interest that the sample is crosschecked or you are retested. However, a second positive result might go a long way to diminishing your defense, so it’s a decision that should be taken carefully with your attorney.
There are cases where you might have knowingly ingested drugs and an impromptu urinary test takes you by surprise and you and your attorney might not see any of the two above strategies as the way forward. You should know that pleading guilty isn’t always the worst thing, especially for first-time offenders. It’s simply doing away with all the litigation and facing a solution or compromise head on.
The best way to do this is by proving to your chain of command that you meet the retention criteria. It’s not the prettiest option, but it’s better than fighting a losing battle and ending up with a dishonorable discharge for your troubles. If you can prove to your superiors that your misconduct was a one-off and was a deviation from normal behavior, while also highlighting your contributions to the military, you might be lucky enough to end up with just an Article 15.