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Update on Drug and Alcohol Screening of Law Enforcement Personnel

NCJ Number
Prosecutor Volume: 23 Issue: 1 Dated: (Summer 1989) Pages: 5-6,8-10
J P Manak
Date Published
5 pages
In two cases, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld mandatory drug testing without particularized individual suspicion of drug use, but there are still unanswered questions on employee screening.
One Supreme Court case involved required blood and urine drug tests for all crew members of trains involved in serious or major accidents, as well as employees who break safety rules. Another case involved mandatory drug testing as a condition of placement or employment in three job categories of the Customs Service. In both cases, the Court ruled that employees' privacy interests were outweighed by compelling governmental interests protecting public safety. Neither case involved random testing; however, the Federal Government is moving ahead with plans for random testing of some 400,000 Federal employees. On May 19, 1989, a Federal district court in Washington, D.C., issued a temporary restraining order and awarded other relief after Federal workers sued to stop the Bush administration's plans. The court held the drug testing program was too broad, given no evidence of a drug problem among the targeted workers. The court rejected a simple "suspected of using drugs" standard for testing General Services Administration (GSA) employees. The court ruled that testing must be based on a more specific requirement: "reasonable, articulable, and individualized suspicion." Random drug testing was approved for GSA employees who carry firearms. The article cites other cases that have ruled against random drug testing.


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