A failed drug test can severely damage a military career and result in court-martial proceedings. The consequences differ depending upon your rank, the type of drug and the branch of the armed services to which you belong.
Military members with positive drug tests should consult with an experienced military law attorney immediately. It’s crucial not to talk to anyone after a positive test until you speak to a lawyer. Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) guarantees you the right not to incriminate yourself and seek counsel.
Potential consequences of a positive drug test
A failed drug test can lead to severe repercussions in many cases. Here are possible outcomes in each branch of the military:
- Airmen testing positive for “hard” drugs such as ecstasy, LSD, cocaine and methamphetamines likely face a court-martial.
- Air Force members of lower rank who test positive for marijuana typically face nonjudicial punishment (NJP) under Article 15 and discharge.
- Coast Guard and Army members of all ranks usually face NJP and administrative discharge.
- Navy members face NJP proceedings, known as captain’s mast.
- Marine Corps members face NJP and administrative discharge.
The use of drugs is forbidden, and military members are regularly tested. When positive tests result, the military mandates pursuing criminal charges.
Defenses for drug offenses
Testing positive does not mean that your career is automatically over. Your attorney will assess the situation and scrutinize the results and the military’s testing procedures. Defenses include:
- The results were inaccurate due to faulty collection or testing methods
- You accidentally or unknowingly ingested the drug
- You are taking prescribed medications that led to a false positive
In some cases, your attorney’s strategy may focus on minimizing the consequences and saving your military career. If you admit to using the drug, you may appeal to your commanding officer that it was a one-time thing and goes against your everyday behavior. For those with clean service records, your lawyer can argue the military is better off with you serving your country. The most vital step is talking to a lawyer who understands the military justice system as soon as possible if you receive a positive drug test notice.