Why are people being tested for drugs and alcohol when the charges have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol?

One of our readers asked this question: Why are people being tested for drugs and alcohol when the charges have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol?

According to the Grand Traverse County website, there are 4.6 probation officers in Grand Traverse County. Each one serves a caseload of 185 people, again according to their website.

If each of those people is court ordered to take a breathalyzer test even 10 times per month, and a breathalyzer test costs $3 each, that’s $306,360 in court-ordered business for people in the community. The people on probation go to jail if they don’t do it. That $306,360 is dollars in the pockets of those who conduct the testing. Those are just estimates. Some people on probation test twice a day. There are also more costly urinalysis tests in addition to PBTs.

Now in a lot of cases, that testing is helpful and necessary to someone on probation. It’s fair enough in cases that relate directly to alcohol like drunk driving or drug possession. It’s also defendable in cases where substance abuse is an underlying contributor, like domestic violence and assault and battery for example. However, the court has the power to order drug and alcohol testing for any other type of misdemeanor conviction (felony convictions for circuit court).

Does the 86th District Court order drug testing too routinely? Do they carefully consider the merits of each case, or is it simply ordered as a matter of course without much thought? Do the pros outweigh the cons? (There is some burden to the tester, as it is expensive for people who are often going through lots of things while on probation, not to mention the time impositions on people who are needing to work.) Is there a conflict of interest that contractors who are known to the judges make their living conducting these tests that the court can simply order? Could there be a better way? Does expensive testing create incentives to help people manage substance abuse issues, or does it create incentives to keep people testing?

That’s all a matter of opinion.

I’ve heard people suggest that the court orders drug and alcohol testing too much, and for cases where substance abuse doesn’t seem to be a factor. What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “Why are people being tested for drugs and alcohol when the charges have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol?”

  1. You’ve listed a number of times the court properly imposes drug testing – and I agree with them. There are two others that are not mentioned, but where (at least I believe) the Court is properly doing imposing such requirements – retail fraud or other theft of drugs or alcohol, and any other crime where there is a recent, verifiable history of substance abuse that may play into the crime. So sort of a broad catch-all, but in my mind a good one.

    1. I know a guy who has never done drugs in his life and his crime had nothing to do with alcohol or drugs and he was tested every day for 8 months while put on Bond and 4x a month for drug tests. Never failed a test. He gets out of jail and had to do pbt tests 2x month for 20 months and drug tests randomly for 3 months. Again he never failed a test over that period. Never violated Bond or Probation. It was a great burden on him financially. Especially while trying to also pay for his lawyers before trial.

  2. I tried to follow the money once to see “who” within our court system has ties with the drug testers….I was stopped, not because it doesn’t exist, but I think because it does….there are places where I read things like: “unknown” where a name should be showing who “owns” what.
    Prove to me there is no connection and that certain people who order these are not reaping the rewards.

  3. 7/2019 Tawas …meanwhile in another MI county (story link below):

    MacGregor asserted that if anything the county is making too much profit on the drug testing, he said that according to figures even at a $20 rate the county is making a 40 percent profit on the drug testing they conduct for the court.

    “We’re ripping people off,” he said

    {Reader should check out the jerk in the article who said he’d have no issue charging $50…as further punishment / a deterrent]


  4. “The reason is to help defray the cost of drugs, alcohol, STD testing and hookers for Todd Ritter”

    Are you also saying purloined inmate fund dollars don’t go as far as they once did?

    Also, you forgot hotels for sex. Allegedly.

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