If a driver is pulled over for driving under the influence, the police officer will administer a chemical test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content, or BAC. There are three different types of chemical tests: breath, blood, and urine.
Urine testing is not reliable method of determining BAC. The concentration of alcohol in urine is 1.33 times the concentration of alcohol in the blood, which leads to inflated test results. Because of this, urine tests are typically only used to determine if the driver had drugs in his or her system.
Though urine testing is a scientific process and is subject to strict protocols that does not mean the tests are not prone to human error. Police officers and technicians do not always follow the correct procedures, making the results of these tests unreliable.
A major problem with urine testing was uncovered in a survey by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The report found that 20% of the labs that were involved in the survey mistakenly reported that illegal drugs were found in urine samples that were actually drug free. The drug screens have a tendency to be unreliable because there are many other substances that have chemical compounds that are similar to illegal drugs. For example, non-drowsy cold medicine may show up as amphetamines, while ibuprofen my produce a false positive for marijuana. Many people have seen the Seinfeld episode where Elaine failed a drug test after eating poppy-seed muffins. That can happen!
Another problem with urine testing is that the test cannot show when the drug was last used – it only detects the leftover traces of the substances. This means that a person who smokes marijuana on a Friday night may still test positive the next Tuesday, even though the drug is no longer affecting him or her. This is unreliable, as what the driver did on a weekend night has nothing to do with his or her ability to drive a vehicle on Tuesday.
Due to the unreliability of urine testing, it is common for DUI defense attorneys to challenge the test results in court.
Do you think urine tests should be used as a method of determining drug and/or alcohol use, considering the unreliability of the results?