What Happens If You Fail A Military Drug Test in the Air Force?

Most armed service members know when they return to their unit after the holidays or other periods of leave, they will likely be subjected to military drug testing.

A positive military drug test result can impact their military career and may even result in court-martial charges. Any military member who tests positive on a urinalysis test should consult with an experienced military attorney immediately. The attorney can help them understand their rights and learn more about the likely actions their chain of command will take as a result of the positive test.

A positive urinalysis result can impact one’s military career and may even result in court-martial charges. The outcome of a failed urinalysis test will vary by rank, service, and the type of drug. However, any service member who tests positive will be in a fight to save their military career.

What are the Possible Outcomes?

  • Navy/Marine Corps members will typically face Mast/NJP and then an administrative discharge proceeding
  • Army and Coast Guard members of all ranks will often face Nonjudicial punishment pursuant to Article 15 and an administrative discharge.
  • Air Force members who test positive for cocaine, methamphetamines, LSD, ecstasy (MDMA), or other “hard” drugs and are NCOs or officers will likely face a court-martial.
  • Airmen who test positive for marijuana or who are lower ranking enlisted members will most often face Nonjudicial punishment pursuant to Article 15 and discharge.

Can You Save Your Military Career?

Yes. A positive drug test does not mean that your military career is necessarily over; you have rights and options. A few of the common paths to saving your career are:

1. FIRST TIME OFFENDERS who knowingly used drugs and have already confessed: Your best option is to prove to your chain of command that you meet the retention criteria.

To meet the criteria, you will need to prove (among other things) that it:

  • was an experimental (one time thing) drug use
  • was a complete deviation from normal behavior
  • will not happen again
  • military interest is best served by retaining you based on your past service and future potential

2. DRUG TEST ERROR: Demonstrate that there was an error in the drug testing process. Errors do happen in the collection of urine samples. These errors can result in mislabeling or a false positive.
In the last few years, multiple errors were made by the Navy lab at Great Lakes. This resulted in samples being wrongfully reported as positive. Every positive test result should be carefully reviewed by an experienced attorney to identify potential errors. We have successfully retained service members using this defense and challenging the forensics

3. ACCIDENTAL DRUG INGESTION: If you believe you may have accidentally ingested the drug, then you may be able to save your career by raising the defense of innocent ingestion or unknowing ingestion.
Innocent ingestion occurs when a military member eats, drinks, or smokes something and is not aware that it contains a controlled substance.
Unknowing ingestion is where a military member does not know the potential source of the drugs in their system but argues that they did not intentionally use any illegal substance.

Both of these defenses can be successful if the military member and their attorney presents a strong case that is consistent with current research and the levels of drugs are consistent with accidental or unknowing exposure. In my career, I have been a part of discharge boards where we have successfully demonstrated that the source of the drugs was cough syrup, brownies, cigarettes, and beer.

What Should You Do If You Test Positive?

Military members who test positive on a drug test should make sure that they understand their rights. You have the right to remain silent (Article 31), the right to consult with counsel of your choosing, and the right to fight to save your career throughout an investigation, Mast, NJP, court-martial, or discharge proceedings.

Do not lose hope. Although a positive drug test can mean the end of your career, it does not have to! With the right approach and the right legal guidance, you will have the opportunity to defend yourself. You can overcome a positive urinalysis test and continue defending our country.
Get help.

The military law attorneys at Crisp and Associates are experienced attorneys who have been a part of hundreds of court-martial cases and have successfully advocated for military members from all branches of the service. If you or someone close to you has tested positive on a military drug test, complete the Contact form on this page or contact Crisp and Associates, LLC today for a free consultation.