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What are the Consequences of Failing Probation Drug Testing?

By Lori Smith
Updated May 16, 2024
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Probation is generally considered a second chance opportunity for people who are convicted of certain crimes. Law enforcement personnel usually take violations seriously. When people fail probation drug testing, they may be subject to restrictions that are more stringent, and sometimes, they are required to enter a drug rehabilitation program. In certain cases, the individual can be sent to jail, where he will carry out the remainder of his punishment. The actual consequences for failing a drug test may depend on the type of crime that was originally committed.

When contemplating appropriate penalties for most probation violations involving drugs or alcohol, a judge will usually consider the circumstances surrounding the original crime that led to a sentence in the first place. If the first offense also involved the illegal use of drugs, then the penalty may be more severe. For example, a judge may conclude that a stricter consequence for failing is warranted for offenders previously convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). In this case, he might order the person to complete a drug rehabilitation program. Jail time may also be considered.

Sometimes, penalties are less drastic. The individual may have committed a relatively minor infraction in the past and has otherwise complied with all of the probationary guidelines. The judge may decide that the most appropriate course of action is to order the offender to serve a number of community service hours. He may also choose to extend an individual’s probation period and impose tighter restrictions on him. House arrest, for example, may be ordered.

Alternatively, or in addition to other penalties, a judge may require a person who fails probation drug testing to wear a specialized monitoring bracelet. The individual wears the appliance at all times and typically, it cannot be easily removed. Attempts to take off the device may send electronic signals to law enforcement, to alert them about unauthorized tampering. Some appliances detect alcohol use when the substance is perspired. Others are programmed to detect drug use by evaluating sleep patterns.

The bracelets are accurate, but if there is ever a doubt, a simple urine test is usually able to confirm suspected indiscretions. This method can act as a sufficient deterrent for offenders. It aids them in abstaining from drugs and alcohol because the device is constantly monitoring them. In fact, this may be more effective than weekly drug testing, in some cases.

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Discussion Comments
By anon942240 — On Mar 26, 2014

In Texas, a friend of mine just went through this. Sh got one year probation, then failed the second test. She got an additional six months probation and was told to go get a prescription for something else, and next time she felt the need to smoke pot, do that instead.

By anon932642 — On Feb 12, 2014

I guess if you think that possession of less than a gram of marijuana is a serious crime and deserves a punishment of up to one year in jail after failing one drug test after several months of good behavior and compliance with the terms of said probation, which is what happened to me, then yes, people should be tested and punished accordingly.

I tend to disagree with this opinion, however, as marijuana is by and large a victimless crime, especially in such an incredibly tiny amount. I suppose morality is truly subjective. The war on drugs is comparable to the war on terror, in that they are futile wastes of lives, money and time, only creating an endless cycle that benefits virtually no one.

By Izzy78 — On Feb 21, 2012

I heard someone the other day saying that courts just make people on probation take drug tests to make their lives more difficult and punish them more, but I definitely don't think that's the case.

Like someone else mentioned, in the case of alcohol, the people that have to submit to these things are true alcoholics. They aren't people who made one or even two mistakes. In the case of illegal drugs, people aren't supposed to be using them in any amount, so it's obvious they can't follow the law and should be watched.

I think part of it, though, is that knowing you have to take a random drug tests is a disincentive to do those illegal activities. It is unfortunate that some people stop doing drugs not because it is good for them but because they will get in trouble if they a fail a drug test. The fact, though, is that some of these people stop for good, and in the end, that is cheaper for society and the court system.

By titans62 — On Feb 20, 2012

@TreeMan - I think you make a good case against people not needing regular drug tests. I think the exception, though, is in the case of the alcohol monitoring ankle bracelets mentioned in the article. I've never had to have one of these, of course, but from what I've seen and read about them, they have to be fairly inexpensive from the law enforcement side of things.

If I remember correctly, there is basically a little monitor that goes around the ankle and then there is some sort of box that plugs into the wall and monitors the person's distance. If the person gets too far away, it takes a note of it.

I think it is important to think about the circumstance of everything surrounding when someone would be wearing this, also. The people who are going to have to wear them are going to be the people that the court determines have a serious drinking problem to the point where they need to quit for good if they are going to be functional members of society. In those types of cases, I fully support them wearing a monitoring bracelet until they've proven they can be responsible.

By TreeMan — On Feb 19, 2012

@jmc88 - It doesn't make sense in any circumstance for everyone on probation to have to take drug tests. If someone was arrested for some type of assault charge, and they weren't under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, what reason is there to think they have a problem with either of those things. Probation is sometimes given as a substitute for jail time in minor cases, but more often than not, probation is a type of longer-term monitoring of a person after they've served a sentence.

Add to all that the fact that drug testing is relatively expensive. You have to pay a lab technician to analyze samples. In the case where they are doing a blood drug test compared to urine or saliva, someone even has to be paid to take the samples.

A lot of people make the baseless argument that people on welfare should be subjected to drug testing, but the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people on welfare don't do drugs or have an alcohol problem. The same is true for people not charged with drug related crimes.

By jmc88 — On Feb 18, 2012

I don't think it is fair that not everyone who is on probation has to take regular drug tests. At least that is the way it is in my state. If the judge is nice enough to give you probation for your crime, I think you only have to have drug testing if you got arrested for something related to drugs or alcohol.

Really though, if you are on probation, it is basically supposed to be a substitute punishment for jail, and you certainly can't drink and do drugs when you're in jail. That's why I think people on probation should also have to do drug tests.

I even think it would be fair to take it another level and say that anyone who has been convicted of drug crimes should have to take drug tests for a certain interval after the initial arrest. I think that is the only real deterrent to make sure they don't do it again. If these people knew that if they got caught, they'd have to take time out of their schedules to take a urine drug test or something for the next 2 years, they might think twice about it.

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