If you find yourself caught up in the criminal justice system because of a DUI arrest, your initial experience with alcohol drug testing will likely be the field breathalyzer test or maybe a blood test. But in Oklahoma and many other states, you can still be subject to drug testing for alcohol even if you are not convicted in court. This can be a condition of participating in a diversion program or other alternative to a jail sentence, or as part of the requirement for you to eventually get your driver’s license back (along with other measures such as being required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle).
You may have heard stories about some of these follow-up tests, which are frequently based on urine samples, resulting in false-positive results. According to available information on the subject, these stories have some grounding in fact: the possibility does indeed exist that you might stop drinking altogether and still confront a urine test that indicates otherwise.
How do alcohol-detection urine tests work?
One of the most common urine tests looks for the presence of a “biomarker” chemical – Ethyl Glucuronide, or “EtG” – in the test sample, which ordinarily exists after consumption of alcohol in the past few days. According to its proponents, the advantages of EtG testing are that the test cannot be compromised by adulteration, fermentation or cross-reaction with other chemicals. It is also extremely sensitive, so people who think that they can get away with attempts to doctor the test sample or to engage in “secret drinking” in violation of the conditions of their drug treatment program will be discouraged from the attempt.
What could possibly go wrong with EtG testing?
The potential trouble with EtG testing is tied to its main advantage: its hyper-sensitivity. This can lead the test to detect substances other than alcohol as biomarkers: liquid medications like cough syrups, mouthwashes and breath strips, food cooked with wine or other alcohol, certain food additives like flavoring extracts or herbal extracts, hand sanitizers and other hygiene products, some solvents and lacquers, and even non-alcoholic beer and wine can all trigger a false-positive result.
You might think that the possibility of false-positive EtG test results would make the government agency administering the test more lenient when it comes to people who fall victim to them, but the opposite might be more likely. Often these agencies will have you sign a contract as part of the program, and you should read the terms and conditions of the contract carefully: you could discover that a false-positive can be held against you, because the contract places all of the responsibility on you to know what substances can lead to incorrect results and to avoid them.
What can you do if you receive a false-positive EtG test result?
As mentioned above, if part of your punishment for a DUI conviction is to be required to participate in a program of ongoing urine testing meant to verify that you are not consuming alcohol, you should understand what the consequences of any positive test result, accurate or not, might be. Sometimes you may be able to argue that a positive result should be subject to verification by an alternative method. Or, you may be able to make a case that the positive result is inaccurate and that you should not be held responsible for something that you did not do.
An attorney experienced with DUI defense can help you to know what your rights and obligations are when it comes to drug testing, and can represent you if you need to challenge a false-positive test result or any action taken against you based on such a result. Call the Hunsucker Legal Group’s DUI Defense attorneys at 405-231-5600 for your free consultation.