In the United States, lawyers are not required to be drug tested as per federal and state laws. But, no law prohibits them from being tested for illegal drugs. Besides, some lawyers must be screened as per their professional conduct code in some jurisdictions and states.
Over the past few decades, drug and alcohol testing has been used in various settings to determine the level of drug and alcohol use by employees. Companies and employers often use it to determine if an individual is suitable for specific jobs or positions or if they need to be screened before being given access to specific job opportunities.
Recently, due to an increase in illegal drug consumption, there has been a change in the drug and alcohol testing guidelines in the workplace. So, all workplaces, including law firms, might drug test their employees as per their drug testing policy.
Yet, experts have raised some concerns about why it would be necessary for law firms and employers to be allowed to conduct drug tests on their current employees. Let’s learn more about lawyers getting drug tested in the United States.
Table of Contents:
- Drug Testing Policy For Lawyers In The United States
- When Does A Lawyer Get Drug Tested?
- What about Lawyers Who Work For a Government Agency?
Drug Testing Policy for Lawyers in the United States
The first thing to remember is that there is no mandatory rule for lawyers to be drug tested in the US. Yet, some states need lawyers to undergo drug testing if they are involved in a case involving illegal drugs.
There are several situations in which a lawyer may undergo a drug screening test. One of them is when a lawyer has been arrested on drug charges. Also, if the lawyer is on case involving drugs, for example, defending a drug dealer who is on trial for murder in which drugs were used, then the lawyer must be tested.
Another time a lawyer may need to undergo drug tests is when they will be appointed to represent a client and have to test them during the appointment hearing. Even though a lawyer will not be required to be tested for drugs in every single case that they are involved in, there are certain cases where they may need to undergo drug tests.
Besides, some lawyers might be subject to random drug testing because of their profession. If one is a lawyer and has a substance abuse problem, one will most likely be required to undergo a drug test.
The second thing you need to know is that some lawyers must go through the drug testing process before employment. In some states, lawyers will be checked out, and their urine samples will be checked before they are allowed to practice.
A lawyer with a substance abuse problem will most likely not be allowed to practice law and might even have their license revoked or suspended. But, as mentioned before, no laws make it mandatory for lawyers to undergo a drug test. It is their choice whether they want to or not.
Generally, a lawyer’s drug testing policy is set by their employer. There are a few reasons why a lawyer might be drug tested by their employer, including:
- To screen new hires to ensure they are not using drugs that would impact their ability to perform the job effectively and safely;
- To make sure that employees can carry out their duties effectively and safely;
- To follow the requirements of professional conduct codes.
When Does A Lawyer Get Drug Tested?
A lawyer generally gets drug tested only if their employer requires them. It is also the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the lawyer is tested following professional conduct codes.
The majority of employers will not proceed with drug testing on their own. Employers usually need a reliable reason to conduct a drug test on their current employees. For instance, if an employee is suspected of using drugs or injuring someone because of drug use, then the employer has the right to conduct a drug test. The employee might even be subject to random drug testing.
The need for drug tests is stated in policy dictated by their employer or professional conduct codes. Some US states need law firms and lawyers to be preventatively tested for drugs.
Some states have specific requirements for lawyers. For example, some states require lawyers to undergo a drug test if they will be appointed counsel for a client related to drug charges or if the lawyer is “docket” in a drug case.
Yet, these are generally not the standard requirements. The primary purpose of drug testing policies is to ensure that lawyers can work effectively and safely and carry out their duties.
The policy will also outline what substances will be tested for, how long the test will take (if any), and a few other information pertinent to the policy. If the lawyer cannot get the drug tests, they may be asked to provide a valid reason why they aren’t able to get the test carried out.
The employer may also take disciplinary actions against the lawyer if they fail to follow the drug testing requirements.
What about Lawyers Who Work For a Government Agency?
The employer will generally set their drug testing policy if someone works for a private company. If they are a lawyer associated with the government, it would depend on what department they work in and what level of responsibility they have within the business.
Some government agencies have made it mandatory for their employees to undergo drug testing; others do not require all their employees to be tested. Thus, lawyers working for the government are mainly not necessary to take a drug test, but it is an option whether they do or not. Check with your employer and see what type of drug testing policy they have.
Lawyers with a drug problem will most likely be required to get drug tests by their employer. The employer has the right to continue drug testing them on their own if they are given reasonable suspicion or reason to believe that the employee uses or is likely to use drugs.
It is vital for a lawyer considering getting a job in the government not only to find out what policy their employer has in place but also whether all of their co-workers are also undergoing drug tests.
The rules that govern drug testing of lawyers vary from state to state, and you must take time to analyze what they are so that you can know what you need to do to follow the requirements.