Footprints to Recovery

Close this search box.
Get Help Now!
Close this search box.

How Drug Tests Work: Pre-Employment, Random, Court-Ordered, and More

You may be asked to take a drug test for many reasons. Sometimes employers require pre-employment drug tests as part of hiring practices. Certain workplaces may conduct random drug testing, especially if you work with machinery, vehicles, trains, planes, or patients. Drug tests are also common for teachers, federal employees, and as part of probation for crimes. If you’re involved in a car accident or are pulled over for suspicious driving or breaking traffic laws, you may be required to take a drug or alcohol test. Learn about the different types of drug tests and what happens if you don’t pass.

How Drug Tests Work: Pre-Employment, Random, Court-Ordered, and More

Pre-Employment Drug Tests

Pre-employment drug tests are common in many workplaces. These drug screening tests are given to potential employees as part of pre-employment screening requirements. Some fields require mandatory drug tests or drug testing to a greater degree than others. For example, industries that are regulated by the Department of Transportation are subject to federal and state drug-testing rules, which can be much more strict than jobs in the private sector.

Before you begin your new job, you’ll sign and date a copy of a document that provides legal proof that you’ve read the terms of pre-employment drug testing, as well as the company’s policies for creating a drug-free workplace. The document will be placed in your personnel file.

What Happens If I Fail a Pre-Employment Drug Test?

In most cases, if you fail a pre-employment drug test, you will no longer be eligible for the job. Companies who require pre-employment drug tests must clearly state that the offer of employment is contingent upon a new hire passing a drug screening test. This will usually be stated in:

  • The job posting
  • Offer letters
  • Other official documents

This gives your potential employer the right to not hire you if you fail their drug test. Some employers may require you to submit a pre-employment drug test and agree to random drug screening during employment if they suspect that you’re using substances on the job or your off-the-job use is impacting your work and the safety of others. There’s typically a chunk of time between a job offer and a pre-employment drug test. If you’re unable to stop using drugs and alcohol for that period of time, it’s probably time to take a closer look at your substance use and whether treatment could help.

Reasonable Suspicion Drug Tests

Reasonable suspicion drug tests are also called “for-cause” or “probable-cause” drug testing. Your employer may give you a reasonable suspicion drug test if you’re:

  • Behaving in an unnatural and uncharacteristic way
  • Acting violent or erratic toward coworkers and management
  • Showing physical signs of substance abuse that are directly affecting job performance

You should be notified when you accept employment that you may be subject to workplace drug testing.

What Happens If I Fail a Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test?

It is the responsibility of your employer to create a written policy for enforcing and maintaining a “drug-free workplace,” which provides both them and you (the employee) with legal protection. If you fail a reasonable suspicion drug test, what happens next is up to your employer. Their drug policy should be clearly written in an employee handbook or other official documentation, so you know what to expect. Some employers have a no-tolerance policy when it comes to substances. Others will let you remain conditionally employed if you receive treatment and pass future drug screening tests.

If you’re drinking or using drugs on the job or your substance use is to the point that it’s impacting your work performance, it’s an indicator that you may have an addiction and need professional help.

Field Sobriety Tests

A police officer will give you a field sobriety test if they suspect you’re driving drunk or using alcohol while breaking the law. If you fail a field sobriety test, police can use this as evidence for a DUI. Police give field sobriety tests to evaluate your:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Ability to divide your attention among tasks

They’ll ask you to maintain a horizontal gaze and:

  • Smoothly follow an object with your eyes.
  • Walk heel-to-toe in a straight line.
  • Turn on one foot and repeat the process.
  • Stand on one leg for 30 seconds without hopping, putting your foot down, or otherwise struggling.

All these tasks have been proven to show legal intoxication in drivers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are admissible as evidence of drunk driving in court.

A police officer may also give you a breathalyzer test to assess your blood-alcohol content. This determines the level of charges against you for drunk driving. You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests, but this comes with its own consequences, which may include jail time, arrests, and fines depending what state you live in.

What Happens If I Fail a Field Sobriety Test?

If you fail a field sobriety test and the police have probable cause that you’re driving under the influence, they can arrest you. Spending the night in jail is a distinct possibility. Drunk-driving charges range from misdemeanors to felony offenses. Depending on your situation and the state, you may:

  • Do jail time.
  • Lose your license for a period of time.
  • Pay fines.
  • Be required to attend substance abuse education or addiction counseling.

Misdemeanors and felonies go on your record and may show up in pre-employment background screenings. Besides just the legal trouble, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is a serious indicator that you have a problem with substance abuse.

Court-Ordered Drug Tests

Court-ordered drug tests are required when you’re legally mandated to stay sober. Court-ordered drug tests may be ordered:

  • In probation cases
  • In custody cases
  • Following a DUI or other criminal activity involving substances
  • During incarceration

When a court orders you to undergo random drug testing, they’ll usually give you a choice of drug-testing programs to choose from based on location and accessibility. The court will determine the frequency and the length of time you must undergo testing.

Failing to show up for a court-ordered drug test could have serious consequences, such as loss of probation and a harsher sentence. Court-ordered drug tests are typically random, so you don’t have time to rid your body of drugs.

How Do Random Drug Tests Work?

In a random drug-testing program, you’ll be assigned to a group. On the day of testing, the center will announce which groups need to report for testing. If your group is up for testing, you’ll need to go in. To find out if you’re up for testing, you will call the center first thing in the morning, every morning. Some centers also have websites or text and email alerts to let a person know if they need to come in for a drug test that day. Testing centers arrange their schedules in such a way that people can never anticipate when their testing group will be called.

What If I Fail a Court-Ordered Drug Test?

What happens when you fail a court-ordered drug test depends on your situation, state, and if it’s a first or repeated occurrence. If you’re on probation, you may get a warning, be required to appear in court, or have your probation revoked. In custody cases, failing a court-ordered drug test can complicate matters with visiting or custody rights.

If you’re jeopardizing your freedom, livelihood, or family by using drugs or alcohol or you’ve been ordered by the court to receive regular testing, it’s time to seek help.

Types of Drug Testing

There are several different types of drug testing. How long drugs can be detected in your body depends on:

  • Type of drug test
  • What drug you used
  • Quantity of drug taken
  • Duration of drug abuse
  • Your metabolism

Blood Drug Test

A blood drug test is one way of testing for illegal drugs. The test measures the amount of alcohol or drugs in your blood at the time of the test. Examples of the kinds of drugs that are detected in a blood drug test include:

Breathalyzer Test

Breathalyzer tests are taken with breath alcohol testing devices. “Breathalyzer” refers to the type of device that has become synonymous with this form of testing. These instruments measure the presence and content of alcohol in your blood. Breath alcohol tests can only determine alcohol levels at the time the test is given. They cannot determine past alcohol use.

Oral Drug Test

A mouth swab test is also known as an “oral fluids test” or a “saliva test.” These collect saliva from the inside of your mouth.

Hair Drug Test

A hair test, also known as “hair follicle drug testing,” can show drug use within the past 90 days. It does not show alcohol use, but it can determine the use of:

The collector will remove 100 to 150 strands of hair close to your scalp. Washing, dying, or styling your hair with consumer products will not affect the accuracy of the tests.

Urine Drug Test

A urinalysis will show the residual presence of drugs and alcohol, even after their effects have worn off. Urine tests use cutoff levels, where the result will only be positive if the traces of a drug are above a certain level. Urine tests can occasionally return false-positive drug test results. Eating certain foods that contain the chemical compounds used in prescription or illicit drugs can cause a person to fail a drug test. Eating poppy seeds, for example, can technically throw up a red flag for suspected opioid use.

Is It Time to Get Help?

Failing drug tests or being ordered to take them may mean that substances are calling the shots in your life, not you. With the right treatment, you can take back the reins and learn healthier and more fulfilling ways of living. Call us today for a free, confidential phone consultation about how you can get your life back on track.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

Are you covered for addiction treatment? Find your insurance
Questions About Treatment?
Get Confidential Help 24/7. Reach Out For More Details About: