Chapter 12. Drug and DWI testing protocols ensure data
The way in which data are gathered can affect whether you are wrongfully accused of crimes
and can affect your success in challenging the evidence. This chapter considers the way in which
drug tests should be and are required to be conducted.
Your Scientific Rights
The technology to identify criminal activity is finding increasing use in both the courtroom and
the workplace. Whether the method be a breathalyzer test, a test for illicit drug use, DNA
fingerprinting, or other, the average citizen (as juror, witness, or defendant) can easily be
overwhelmed by the scientific, technological aura of these methods. Yet, technology does not
guarantee accuracy, and the public should not place blind trust in the application of such
technologies, especially when someone's liberty or life is at stake. As a society, we want the
benefits of these new technologies, but at the same time, we want to make certain that they are
applied in a fair manner.
Short of learning the technologies yourself, there are a few simple steps you can undertake to
determine whether such technologies are being applied fairly. The law does not explicitly
guarantee an individual's right to sound scientific practices when gathering evidence to convict
them, but one's constitutional right to a fair trial can certainly be argued to include these rights.
Any test used against you should have the five relevant features of ideal data. Unfortunately,
although a good defense attorney might be able to insist on the criteria of ideal data in court,
corporate use of scientific data to fire employees is not subject to such scrutiny: a drug test may
be used as the basis of job termination without the employee's knowledge of the basis for
dismissal. On the positive side, however, the Department of Transportation has instituted a
lengthy and detailed protocol for lab-based drug-testing and alcohol-testing, which incorporates
several features of ideal data. In what follows, we list the elements of what we regard as a fair
drug test and note whether the features are included in the Dept. of Transportation rules (DOT
rules). By and large, the DOT rules go a long way toward ensuring that ideal data criteria are
The last part of the chapter deals with DWI data that are not part of lab testing under the
A Fair Drug Test
The following paragraphs consider each of our ideal data features, first describing our model of a
fair drug test and then followed by the relevant features prescribed by the DOT. A summary of
whether the DOT rules match the features of ideal data is offered below.
: assess whether the concentration of a drug exceeds a threshold
being tested: the drug level is below the threshold