Drug test problems--again

There is a recent report that, “A Navy drug testing lab in April found a fault in a urine test used to to separate over 200 sailors since 2006, Navy officials say.”

Apparently, “The Navy Drug Screening Lab in Great Lakes, Illinois, had its meth testing shut down after technicians discovered that under rare conditions its test for methamphetamine and amphetamines could produce a false positive result.”

Over the years, I have had individual cases with testing problems.  The most significant was for a senior enlisted person who tested positive for a controlled substance.  I preparation for her separation board we closely reviewed the drug lab paperwork.  We were surprised because we found evidence there was male chromosomes present in the sample.  The command explanation was that it must have been contaminated—well yes!

Some years ago, there was a significant scandal with the Brooks Air Force testing lab.  The reported a positive result for a quality assurance test on the system.  The problem was that the sample was sent to them by an outside agency and was a blind test.  The sample was certified negative for a controlled substance by the submitting agency.  As you can imagine, this caused a lot of litigation.  It got to the point that the prosecutors were resisting defense evidence of this failure.  Ultimately the appeals courts agreed.

The defense alleges prejudicial error in pretrial discovery. The appellant advised this Court that the trial defense counsel submitted a formal discovery request on 3 January 2001 requesting disclosure of documentation relating to "false positives" and "false negatives." The trial defense counsel also requested, inter alia, copies of documents relating to inspections of the laboratory, the quality control program, mishandling of samples, and other administrative errors in testing for the three months before the appellant's sample was tested, the month of the testing, and the month after the testing. The appellant also demonstrated that, during testing at the Brooks AFB laboratory on 31 July 2000, an internal blind quality control sample that should have been negative erroneously tested positive for the metabolite of cocaine.

United States v. Brozzo, 57 M.J. 564, 565 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. 2002)

There was also a period when the Air Force drug cases had the issue of the “Mobley letter” come up.  Prosecutors were critical of Dr. Mobley who had testified to problems in the testing program, and wrote a letter complaining about lab employees who gave testimony helpful to the defense.  The letter was circulated at the lab, with the potential chilling effect of preventing employees being critical of the program and testing.    

As history shows, if it happened before it can happen to you.  Give us a bell at 703-298-9562 or eMail at mljucmj@court-martial.com for a consultation if you have a similar problem.