Can the military order a soldier to take a drug test?

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Written By: Jeffrey JohnsonUPDATED: Jul 16, 2021Fact Checked

The military can lawfully order a member to provide a urine sample, to be subject to searches, or to provide blood or hair samples for random drug use testing and other purposes. The military was among the first to use urinalysis on a large scale to detect drug use.

Anecdotally, Army units are reportedly tested several times during the year. Once a unit is assembled, a lock down can occur until a urinalysis is administered to every person in the unit. 

Are there any defenses used to counter military drug test results?

Yes, but “lack of consent” is not one of them. Induction into the military requires a drug test and retention is predicated upon abstaining from drug use. However, as in the civilian world, there are military-area lawyers who specialize in challenging the accuracy of military drug tests.

What can happen to me if I refuse military drug testing?

It is a crime to disobey a lawful military command. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) allows a general court martial for failing to take a drug test.

What kinds of military drug test are allowed to be ordered?

The military does not generally require ‘probable cause’ to order a drug test. This means, in practical terms, that a drug test can be ordered for any reason, using the most acceptable drug testing method available.

What if I’m not on duty? Can I still be subjected to a military drug test?

A soldier’s use of controlled substances is prohibited by the UCMJ, all the time and anywhere.

What if it’s legal, for example in the Netherlands, to use the drug off base?

If it is a crime to use the drug under US federal law, it remains a crime everywhere. Even if changes occur in federal law, effectively decriminalizing the use of a drug, the DoD may still determine drug use to be contrary to military rules of conduct. For the military soldier, there are limited constitutional rights.

Does the DoD cooperate with civilian authorities to order drug tests?  

There are increasing areas of cooperation. Interestingly, civilians are also subject to random drug testing or unit sweeps, (known as “command sweeps”) involving large scale urinalysis and even drug sniffing dogs. These may occur unannounced.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
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