Will I Be Drug Tested in Court in New York?

Urine sample cup

As a general rule, people fear going to court, fear being accused of a crime, and would prefer to never step foot in a courtroom. The cause of these fears is understandable. A criminal court judge has a tremendous amount of power over the people in his or her courtroom – particularly if you are a defendant. One concern we hear frequently is " Will I be drug tested in court? " Obviously, if you don't use drugs now and haven't in the recent past you have no reason to be concerned about this possibility; however, if there is even a remote chance that you could test positive for drugs or alcohol you have good reason to be concerned.

A judge has virtually unfettered power over the court in which the judge presides. In a nutshell, this means that as soon as you enter the courtroom and/or become a defendant in a case being prosecuted in the courtroom you submit yourself to the judges' authority. That authority can – and often does – extend to requiring you to take a drug or alcohol test. The following are the most common situations in which you could be alcohol or drug tested in court:

  • You appear intoxicated - appearing for court visibly intoxicated is a sure way to be ordered to take an alcohol or drug test. Some judges will order a portable breath test (PBT) brought right into the courtroom to check your breath alcohol concentration (BAC). If you appear to be under the influence of drugs the judge could order you to go to the probation department or another facility and take a urine drug test immediately.
  • You are ordered to serve a probation sentence - because abstaining from alcohol and drugs is a standard condition of probation, a judge may order you to take a drug test immediately after being sentenced to probation. The purpose is to establish a "baseline". That way they know if you continue to use drugs because your 'baseline" figures will stay the same or increase instead of decreasing.
  • You violated your probation - if you violate any of the terms of your probation (or sentence in general) you could be ordered to take a drug test if the judge believes you have a drug problem. If your test is positive, the judge could modify the conditions of your probation to include drug counseling.

Clearly, testing positive for drugs or alcohol in court is not a good thing. If you are concerned that you will fail a drug or alcohol test, consult with your New York criminal defense attorney right away to determine the best way to handle the situation.