FAQ - Urine Testing
Q: What is a urine test and how does it work?
A: Urine tests are given by law enforcement officers in DUI / OVI investigations to determine an individual’s alcohol or drug level. To administer a urine test, a urine sample is collected in a glass container and analyzed by scientific methods, such as gas chromatography or mass spectrometry. Machines test the urine sample, calculate the concentration of alcohol and/or drugs present in the urine sample, and produce a printout with the result. In Ohio, urine tests are commonly used as part of the Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE). The DRE is a multi-step procedure officers use to help them to recognize drivers under the influence of drugs.
Q: Why do law enforcement officers use urine tests?
A: If an officer suspects an individual’s drug and/or alcohol level is above the legal limit, the officer can administer a urine test. Urine tests are more convenient to administer than blood tests, and they detect drugs that won’t be detected by a breath test. In Ohio, urine tests are used for cases of DUI / OVI, vehicular homicide, and vehicular assault.
Q: What happens if the alcohol level in a urine test is over the limit?
A: There are different ways a person can commit the offense of DUI / OVI in Ohio. One way is to drive with a prohibited level of alcohol in your urine. For alcohol, an individual is considered to be operating under the influence when his/her urine test results indicate an alcohol level of .11 or above. The charge for urine test results at or above .11 (but under .238) is DUI/OVI “per se”. The charge for urine test results at or above .238 is DUI/OVI “per se, high test”.
Q: Are urine tests an accurate way to determine alcohol and/or drugs levels?
A: Urine tests are viewed as the least reliable of the three common DUI/OVI tests (blood/breath/urine). In fact, most states no longer use urine tests to determine an individual’s alcohol and/or drug level. There are two primary reasons for the inaccuracies: 1) The concentration of alcohol or drugs in urine is not equal to the concentration of alcohol or drugs in the blood. This is the reason the legal limits for blood and urine are different; and 2) Alcohol or drugs may remain in the urine long after they have disappeared from the blood, and therefore are no longer affecting your ability to drive.
Q: Are there rules law enforcement officers must follow for administering urine tests?
A: Yes. Statutes, regulations, and case law surround the use of urine test results as evidence in Ohio courts. The law states that a urine test must be given within three hours of operating a vehicle, and the test must be analyzed according to methods approved by the Department of Health. The Department of Health has many regulations pertaining to urine tests. These regulations include: (1) the methods used to collect urine samples; (2) the handling of collected urine; (3) the transporting of collected urine; (4) the testing methods used by laboratories; and (5) the storage of collected urine.
Q: How can a DUI/OVI attorney challenge urine test results?
A: A DUI/OVI attorney can review the records maintained by a law enforcement agency to determine if a urine test was administered in compliance with Department of Health regulations. The attorney should look at how the urine test was administered and which testing methods were used. If the laboratory does not comply with Department of Health regulations, the result of the urine test may be inadmissible ("thrown out") in court, and therefore, cannot be used as evidence in a DUI/OVI case.
My practice is focused on DUI / OVI defense, I have experience with urine test cases, and I represent clients that are contesting DUI / OVI charges in Columbus and central Ohio. For more information about me, please see my profile, and for details about my practice, please see the firm overview. You can also see what clients say and review my past case results. I limit the number of cases I accept so I can provide outstanding service to my clients. If you would like to discuss how I can help with your DUI / OVI, EMAIL ME or call me at 614-717-1177 to arrange a free consultation.