Walking into a criminal courtroom is intimidating for just about anyone. Whether you are the defendant in a pending criminal case or you have already been convicted and are returning for a post-conviction hearing, just walking into the courtroom and facing the judge may make you nervous. If you are also concerned that you will be drug or alcohol tested in court in California, you are likely more than nervous. Whether or not you stand a chance of being drug or alcohol tested in court depends on a number of factors. Understanding what those factors are and the likely outcome of being tested may reduce your fear of the courtroom just a little bit.
First, judges do not routinely test all defendants who come before the bench. Not only would that take far too much time in an already clogged judicial system but it would also be cost prohibitive. That does not mean, however, that there is no risk of being tested for drugs or alcohol as a result of an appearance in court. The following are the most common scenarios that could provoke a drug or alcohol test in court:
- You appear intoxicated – this one is obvious. If you appear in court, whether as a defendant or a witness, and you appear to be intoxicated the judge could order you to take a Breathalyzer test. If this happens, a portable breath test, or PBT for short, will be brought into the courtroom and you will be required to blow into it. If it shows you have alcohol in your system, the judge could order you to leave or could order you to be taken into custody for contempt of court.
- Probation violation hearing – probation violations are frequently related to positive drug screens or to reasons relating to drug or alcohol addiction. At a probation violation hearing, therefore, the judge may want to know if you are currently “clean”. Typically, the judge will order you to report to the probation department immediately and take a drug test and/or alcohol test. The outcome of the violation hearing may depend on the results of the tests.
- Sentenced to probation – if you accepted a guilty plea agreement, or were sentenced by the court, to a term of probation, the judge may order you to report to probation immediately following court and to have a “baseline” drug test conducted. This allows the probation department (and the court) to know what drugs were in your system, and at what levels, when you started probation. If your levels go up, your probation officer will know you are continuing to use the drug and you will likely be violated.
If you are concerned about the possibility of being drug tested when you appear for court in California, talk to your California criminal defense attorney ahead of time and explain your concerns.