U.S. Military Lawyer - The Law Office of Stephen P. Karns

Drug Crimes/Positive Urinalysis (UA)

There are a number of ways in which involvement with illegal drugs can get you in trouble in the military. Some of these are:

  • testing positive for illegal drugs (a positive urinalysis or UA for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, etc.);
  • refusal to give a urinalysis sample for testing;
  • possession of illegal drugs (marijuana, cocaine, etc.); and/or
  • sale, distribution, or trafficking of illegal drugs.

All branches of the military take a zero tolerance approach to drug use and vigorously prosecute drug offenders. If you have tested positive for an illegal substance, or are being investigated for involvement in a drug offense, you are likely to face significant punishment as a consequence—including a possible court-martial or other administrative action. This could result in the termination of your career. If you are in any of these situations, you will need the representation of an experienced aggressive attorney such as Mr. Karns.

The military employs various methods of monitoring and testing its personnel for illegal substances, including random and command directed urinalysis testing. If you are the subject of a command directed urinalysis test, the command must have probable cause to test you or your consent to be tested. If your command is seeking to test you specifically, then the representation of an experienced military attorney such as Mr. Karns is crucial to protect your interests. Mr. Karns can advise you of your rights prior to making any statements or accepting any non-judicial punishment (NJP). If need be, he can defend you regarding any resulting court-martial or administrative separation action as well.

It is possible to test positive for an illegal drug that you have not ingested or have a false positive on a urinalysis test. It is important to know that you may have a valid defense for the charges against you. As an experienced military attorney, Mr. Karns can present your side of the story, which may be that you innocently ingested an illegal substance, or that the military mishandled the collection or testing of your sample. If the military’s chain of custody regarding your sample is improper, your test result may be thrown out.

Furthermore, a positive urinalysis test, without more, does not make a successful case against you. The military must prove misconduct on your part, that is, it must prove that you knowingly and consciously ingested an illegal substance. Therefore, if the military cannot provide evidence that you knowingly and consciously ingested an illegal substance, it cannot convict you of a drug offense. Mr. Karns can help you mount this defense by developing evidence and witness statements that show you did not knowingly or consciously ingest an illegal substance. He can also examine and discredit the military’s evidence against you, which often includes the inaccurate statements of witnesses who may have a bias against you.


Past Cases

Client was an Army Reserve Specialist who tested positive for THC and whose command was administratively separating him with an Other Than Honorable Discharge. Client hired Attorney Karns to attempt to get him the best possible outcome. Attorney Karns was able to obtain Client an Honorable Discharge which saved the character of Client’s career and alleviated his civilian employment concerns moving forward.

Client was a Cryptologic Petty Officer First Class and Senior Analyst in the Navy Reserve with a Top Secret clearance and eleven years of service. Client tested positive for “meth” at a level of 6704 ng and also had a previous DWI conviction. Client hired Attorney Karns to represent him for an Administrative Separation Board Hearing. Although Client could provide no particular explanation regarding how or why he tested positive, Attorney Karns presented an “innocent ingestion” defense to the Board based on the premise that the circumstances of Client’s ingestion need not be known for the ingestion to nevertheless be innocent. Attorney Karns also presented character witnesses in the Client’s behalf, including co-workers and witnesses from Client’s civilian life. The Board found that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Client knowingly ingested meth. Client was retained in the Navy and will be able to reacquire his civilian job.

Client was an Army Captain with sixteen years who tested positive on a urinalysis for THC after ingesting marijuana cookies over the Thanksgiving holiday. After Client was informed he tested positive, he hired Attorney Karns to represent him. Client’s command initiated an Article 15 against Client and Attorney Karns assisted Client in developing and presenting a defense of “innocent ingestion” to his command. The CG found the Client not guilty, and he was able to continue his career without any further adverse action or punishment.

Client was an Army Captain with sixteen years who tested positive on a urinalysis for THC after ingesting marijuana cookies over the Thanksgiving holiday. After Client was informed he tested positive, he hired Attorney Karns to represent him. Client’s command initiated an Article 15 against Client and Attorney Karns assisted Client in developing and presenting a defense of “innocent ingestion” to his command. The CG found the Client not guilty, and he was able to continue his career without any further adverse action or punishment.

Client was an E-1 in the Navy who tested positive for Valium on a squadron-wide urinalysis after returning from Christmas leave. In addition, Client had a previous Captain’s Mast for drinking while on a duty status. Client hired Attorney Karns after he learned of the test results and was notified that he would be facing another Captain’s Mast. After listening to Client and learning that Client’s grandmother gave him the Valium to help him sleep while staying at her home for the holidays, Attorney Karns believed that Client had a defense of innocent ingestion and assisted Client in presenting this defense at his DRB. After XOI, Client’s command decided to decline to proceed to Captain’s Mast; thus, Client avoided separation from the Navy.

Client was a SSG in the Army who was pending a medical board. However, in the meantime, Client tested positive for THC on three occasions over a month’s time with levels of 568ng, 34ng, and 35ng. Client’s command contemplated what action to take against Client for wrongful use of a controlled substance. Client hired Attorney Karns, and Attorney Karns contacted Client’s command on his behalf. Client’s command agreed to only impose an Art. 15 and allow Client to continue his medical separation. Instead of a separation for misconduct and a less than Honorable discharge, Client medically separated with an Honorable Discharge, thus preserving all of Client’s benefits.

Client was a SSG in the Army who tested positive for methamphetamine (meth). Client took ephedra in the form of a legal over-the-counter supplement. Client’s command read him the first part of an Art. 15 and Client hired Attorney Karns. Attorney Karns obtained Client’s internet order history, a letter from a pharmacist who affirmed that ephedra use can result in a positive urinalysis for meth, and various published studies which corroborated the pharmacist’s opinion. Attorney Karns packaged this evidence along with good character letters and his written argument to the command requesting that it rescind the Art. 15. Client’s command rescinded the Art. 15 prior to the second reading and took no further action.

Client was an Army Staff Sergeant with seven years of service. Client tested posted for amphetamines on a routine drug screen. Client was immediately flagged for adverse action for drug abuse and an involuntary separation for misconduct. Client hired Attorney Karns to represent him for his Art 15. Attorney Karns arranged for Client to take a polygraph through a civilian polygrapher in order to prove Client’s innocence. Client passed the polygraph. Attorney Karns was able to persuade Client’s commander that it was a case of innocent ingestion (Client unknowingly took his wife’s medication), and Client was found “not guilty” by the commander. Client’s flags were removed and he was able to continue his Army career without hindrance.

Client was a SFC and recruiter in the Texas Army National Guard who was just six months from retirement when he tested positive for THC on a urinalysis. Client’s command wanted to administratively separate Client with an Other Than Honorable Discharge. Client hired Mr. Karns who immediately helped Client assemble evidence of his years of proficient service and obtain letters from his colleagues regarding their high of opinion of his integrity, service, and loyalty. Attorney Karns presented this evidence to Client’s command and successfully persuaded them to agree to allow Client to retire with an honorable discharge.

Client was a Captain and physician in the U.S. Air Force who tested positive on a urinalysis for THC. Client claimed that she had unknowingly eaten “pot brownies” at a party over the holidays which caused her to test positive. The Client’s medical credentials were immediately placed in abeyance while OSI investigated, and she was removed from her position as the director of her medical clinic and from performing her other patient-related duties. Client hired Attorney Karns to rehabilitate her status with the Credentials Committee and defend future legal action by her command. Mr. Karns helped Client get her clinical privileges restored while she was still under investigation. After the Art. 32 hearing and after the command referred charges, Client passed a civilian polygraph exam regarding whether or not she innocently ingested the pot brownies. Client’s command subsequently agreed to dismiss the charges with no resulting adverse career consequences for Client.

Client was an Airman stationed at Nellis AFB who went out with some fellow Airmen and used Xanax that they bought from a dancer at a club. A witness reported the group to OSI who interviewed the Client and his friends. Although someone said they were “sure” Client took some Xanax, Client denied he used any. After Client’s CO gave him the first reading of the Article 15, he hired Mr. Karns who immediately contacted his CO and explained that the Client was not guilty and that the other Airman who made statements never witnessed the Client take Xanax. Mr. Karns also assisted Client’s father, who was retired from the Navy, speak on his son’s behalf. Subsequently, Client’s CO agreed not to go forward on the Art. 15, thus saving Client from being punished and ultimately separated from the USAF for wrongful use of a controlled substance.

Client was a Marine who was pulled over and his vehicle searched. The police found spice cigarettes and a water pipe. Client was charged with possession of spice and paraphernalia and referred for a special court-martial. Along with his detailed military counsel, Client hired Mr. Karns to defend him for the court-martial, but prior to those proceedings, Attorney Karns had Client take a polygraph examination with a civilian polygrapher. The result of the polygraph demonstrated that Client didn’t know the spice was in his car when he was stopped. Attorney Karns and his military counsel gave the polygraph results to Client’s command which agreed to give Client a nonjudicial punishment for the paraphernalia and allowed Client to separate with an Honorable Discharge. Client received no jail time or criminal conviction.

Army National Guard SGT tested positive for cocaine after a random urinalysis. Subsequently, Client hired Mr. Karns for his administrative separation hearing. Client had to be retained in the Guard in order to maintain his federal civilian employment. Prior to the hearing, Mr. Karns interviewed several witnesses who observed the urinalysis procedures for the unit that day and was able to demonstrate to the administrative separation board that proper procedures were not followed in the collection and storage process. Mr. Karns also called witnesses from Client’s command to testify that Client was a good soldier and would not use drugs. The board voted that Client did not engage in any misconduct.

Airman First Class was charged with on multiple occasions wrongfully distributing and using ecstasy and marijuana and allowing another Airman to us his vehicle to transport illegal drugs onto an USAF installation. Client’s case was connected to those of several codefendants, all of whom were court-martialed and received Bad Conduct Discharges (BCD). Client’s case was also referred to a general court martial, but Mr. Karns was able to negotiate a pretrial agreement with the prosecution which allowed Client to be retained in the USAF via the Return to Duty Program and avoid confinement and a BCD.

Navy LTJG pilot received Captain’s Mast for smoking marijuana. His case was then referred to a Show Cause board where he was facing an Other Than Honorable Discharge. Client was retained and will complete his contract and receive an Honorable Discharge.

Special Forces Senior NCO charged with two counts of unlawful use of marijuana. Special Court-Martial panel returned a verdict of Not Guilty on both charges.

Senior NCO tested positive for cocaine. Mr. Karns convinced the soldier’s Commanding General to grant the soldier’s request for an Honorable Discharge and allow the soldier to retire.

Senior NCO tested positive for marijuana. Mr. Karns convinced the soldier’s command to terminate the administrative separation action and retain the soldier.

NCO tested positive for marijuana on a urinalysis test. In most cases, the command would refer the soldier to an administrative separation board. However, in this case, through Mr. Karns’ negotiations with the soldier’s command, the soldier was able to avoid a board and separation.



* Past results achieved are not a guarantee of future results. Each case is unique and reference must be made to the specific legal and factual circumstances presented.


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