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What can be detected in a urine test?

Updated: May 12, 2022

IF YOU UNDERSTAND NOTHING ELSE understand this: the only thing that courts accept as proof that you’ve given up drugs is urinalysis.

Plain and simple.

Not what you say, not what your lawyer says, just what urinalysis says.

So, what is urinalysis?

Urinalysis is a test of your urine. In the field of medical practice it’s used to detect and manage a selection of illnesses such as kidney and urinary tract infections.

In the field of criminal law urinalysis is used to show the presence of up to 9 different illegal substances such as cannabis, amphetamines, diamorphine (a.k.a. heroin), ketamine and cocaine.

Urinalysis is scientific and
it cannot be “gamed”.
If you say you’ve given up drugs
urinalysis will show whether you have or have not.

Despite the persistent belief among some people that Judges believe anything they are told, my experience over the years is the opposite. Judges are not some class of exalted citizens who live in ivory towers never coming into contact with ordinary mortals. This characterisation has been largely driven by Hollywood and more than one US Judge has been known to complain about it.

Judges are not walled-off from the rest of us.

They socialise like you or I. They have family and friends like you or I and hear the same sorts of stories that you or I do.

They are also quite sceptical about what they hear in court.

I have often told my clients charged with drugs offences that telling a Judge that you are “about to go into treatment” or are “off drugs” is worthless unless you have actually started treatment or have proof that you’re off drugs.

Proof that you’re off drugs comes from urinalysis and only urinalysis.


IF YOU TRY TO PERSUADE A JUDGE -any Judge- to accept that you have seen the error of your ways and are now drug-free for ever more, just because you say so, you’re in for a bad surprise.

Part of the reason that they don’t believe you is because they’ve heard that story thousands of times in the past from people who really believed what they were saying, only to sink back into addiction later.

Urinalysis is a hedge against that.

Urinalysis involves making an appointment to see a doctor that carries out such work, providing a sample of your urine and waiting on the test results to come back from the laboratory that conducts the test.

Each sample that you provide (and if you’re serious you should be providing samples every 2-3 weeks) is screened for the presence of 8-9 illegal substances.

These tests (conducted by reputable labs) are the only evidence that a Judge will accept that you’re now “clean”.

To give an example of what I’m talking about I once represented a young man who had been caught in possession of €10,000 worth of cocaine. He was the front-seat passenger in a car and both he and his friend who was driving were arrested and charged with sale and supply of cocaine.

They ended up in the Circuit Court, a place best described by a Barrister once “where they think in terms of years, not months”.

The penalties here include significant jail time, but we had advised my client that he should start urinalysis right away, not months later when the summons from the Gardai arrived.

He did so and carried that ritual of providing urinalysis once every 3 weeks for months before the trial.

His co-accused (the driver) did not conduct any urinalysis.

When the case came into court we submitted the months of urinalysis tests to the Judge as evidence that he had given up all substances a long time ago. He was given a suspended sentence.

The Judge then turned to his co-accused, the driver, and asked gruffly: “Where’s his urinalysis?”

He hadn’t any completed and the Judge was not happy. He adjourned the driver’s case for 3 months.

My client exited the court system with a suspended sentence but the driver had to wait 3 more months to see what his fate was.

Urinalysis is scientific and it cannot be “gamed”. If you say you’ve given up drugs urinalysis will show whether you have or have not.

Why don’t people do urinalysis more often when they face drugs charges?

Because despite what they say (“I haven’t the time”, “it’s too expensive”) they still haven’t given up drugs and they know that urinalysis will show this.

And Judges know it too.

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