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Drug Testing in a Drug Court Environment: Common Issues To Address

NCJ Number
Jerome J. Robinson; James W. Jones
Date Published
May 2000
28 pages

This paper addresses the most frequent issues associated with drug testing in drug court programs; it provides an overview for drug court program officials regarding the most critical topics related to the development and maintenance of a drug testing capability.


The authors advise that drug testing is a key component of drug court programs, because it provides readily available and objective information to the judge, other justice system officials, treatment personnel, and caseworkers regarding a participant's progress in treatment. The effective operation of a drug court program is premised on having the capacity to conduct frequent (often two to three times per week) and random drug tests of participants; obtain test results immediately; and maintain a high degree of accuracy in test results. A description of drug-testing methodologies considers the most commonly used samples for detecting drug use, testing technologies, and testing procedures. A review of the critical components of a drug testing program focuses on adequate staffing, maintaining the integrity of the process, detecting adulteration, determining appropriate testing frequency, using confirmation testing, maintaining specimens for retesting, obtaining accurate and meaningful interpretation of results, and the development and periodic updating of a procedures manual that documents all aspects of the drug-testing process. Also discussed are defendant agreements to comply with drug-testing program requirements and for release of information. Remaining sections of the paper address tips for promoting an effective drug-testing program, estimating drug-testing costs, questions to ask drug-testing equipment and/or supply vendors, and frequently asked questions. Appended drug test cutoff values, 3 notes, and 7 references