Following almost every positive urinalysis, the military member will be asked to provide another sample. Command often refers to this second sample as a “retest” but it really isn’t – it’s a second urinalysis.
The command timeline for a military urinalysis is as follows:
Day 1: urinalysis taken, placed into storage
Day 2 – 5: urinalysis box shipped to the nearest military drug lab
Day 5 – 10: urinalysis box arrives at drug lab and is placed into secure storage
Day 10 – 20: urinalysis box is open, samples are inspected, and testing occurs
Day 20-30: initial screenings and confirmation testing is completed, positive results are reported through the online portal to command
The “detection window” for almost all illicit drugs (meaning the time from ingestion to the loss of a detectable level) is days, not weeks. So by the time a “retest” occurs, the drug will be out of the system, unless the individual used again.
Because weeks normally pass before the command informs the members and requests a retest, the drug that caused the first positive urinalysis drug test result will be out of the system. If the member has not ingested (knowingly, unknowingly, or otherwise), he or she should test negative on the retest.
Is a “retest” helpful?
So long as the drug test result is NEGATIVE, then it is some evidence that the member is not a chronic, or frequent, drug user. It will not invalidate the first drug test result, and the member will normally face the same disciplinary and administrative action as a result of the first, positive urinalysis.
A positive test on the “retest,” especially for an illicit drug like cocaine or marijuana, is generally bad news, especially if the results fail to lend the opportunity to argue that the “retest” result was caused by the same ingestion. An example where the urinalysis result could be caused by the same ingestion would be a very high result on the first test and very low result on the “retest.”
The best advice for a military member who tests positive on a urinalysis is as follows:
- Make no statements, to anyone
- Don’t consent to any searches, including providing a urinalysis
- Promptly speak to an experienced lawyer who can advise you on whether to provide a retest sample and make statements about the positive urinalysis
- Don’t waive any rights to an administrative separation hearing
Attorney Patrick Korody is a former Navy Judge Advocate who was certified by the Judge Advocate General as a Specialist in Military Justice. He defends members of the military worldwide and has successfully defended service members facing allegations of drug abuse and wrongful drug use at NJP, court-martial, and administrative separation boards. His offices are located in Jacksonville, Florida.