This study assessed the effectiveness of drug testing as a means of predicting that a released arrestee will commit an additional offense or fail to appear in court during the pretrial period.
Data were analyzed from six jurisdictions to determine how urine test results and other factors, especially criminal records and community ties, might have a bearing on postrelease misconduct (arrest and failure to appear). Overall, researchers found some evidence that drug-test results predict pretrial misconduct. The evidence was inconsistent, however; some sites indicated drug tests could not predict any type of behavior, and others predicted either rearrest or failure to appear, but seldom both. A positive test for opiates helped predict rearrest; a positive test for cocaine helped predict misconduct in some sites, but the effect was not statistically significant in a combined test across all sites. A positive test for cocaine helped predict failure to appear; other positive test results showed no consistent predictive power. The study speculated that a key problem with urine test results is that they cannot distinguish between heavy and moderate drug users; this is a significant limitation, since criminal behavior generally increases with heavy drug use. 3 exhibits and 6 notes
Date Published: January 1, 1996