Rather than serving jail time, you got probation. That’s great. You don’t have to spend time behind bars, you still have most of your freedom. Most, of course, is not all, and so there are certain things you are barred from doing until the probation period is over.

One of the most common rules that must be followed while on probation is to stay away from drugs and alcohol. But, life being what it is, sometimes that is easier said than done. Say your brother just got married, and the reception was a little wild. You weren’t really engaging in any dangerous behavior or falling back into old habits, but the drug test you just failed doesn’t convey that information to the state. So what happens now?

That’s the question we’re here to answer. We’ll see how drug testing works while on probation, what happens when you fail a drug test on probation, and what risk there is of ending up in jail over a failed drug test.

How Does Drug Testing Work While on Probation?

So you’ve gotten placed on probation, and you are not allowed to partake in any drugs. But just how does the state know if you’ve been doing so? Through drug testing. But the way that drug testing is applied varies not just on a state-by-state basis but even on an officer-to-officer basis.

Drug testing during probation is largely left to the discretion of your probation officer. This could mean that you are tested for drugs every time you meet with your officer. But it could also mean that you are only subjected to drug testing randomly throughout your probation.

Since this is handled on a case-by-case basis, it is impossible to say what exactly you will be facing. If you were arrested for drug charges, then chances are fairly good that you will be subjected to more regular testing than if you were charged with a non-drug crime. But this isn’t always the case; since regular testing can become predictable, your probation officer may try to switch up the frequency of testing to catch you in a trap.

Drug testing is typically done by testing your urine. Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect system. Urine testing is able to catch a lot of different chemicals, including those that you may be prescribed legally. If a test reveals legally prescribed substances there should be no problem, though there have been cases where people have had to retain legal counsel to prove they weren’t in violation of their probation.

What Happens When You Fail a Drug Test While on Probation?

If you fail a drug test while on probation then a number of different outcomes may result. However, most first-time violations are followed by one of the following penalties:

  • A Warning: If the circumstances allow, often probation officers will opt to go with a warning rather than anything more serious. Warnings are noted in your probation file, which means that any future violations will result in harsher penalties.
  • Community Service: Community service typically means helping to clean up your community. This is unpaid work and it can be assigned for a failed drug test. Sometimes given out for a first-time violation, it is also a common punishment for second-time violations.
  • Rehabilitation: Repeated drug test failures may be taken as a sign that you have a drug problem and require help to rehabilitate. You could be ordered to attend a drug rehabilitation program, either an inpatient or an outpatient program.
  • Counseling: Drug problems are often the result of mental or emotional issues, so it isn’t uncommon to be forced into counseling to try to treat the underlying condition that inspires the drug use in the first place.
  • Modification of Probation Conditions: Failed drug tests could lead to your probation conditions being made harsher. In extreme cases, you could have your probation revoked.

It is also possible to face jail time as a result of failing a drug test. Let’s dive deeper into that.

Will I Go To Jail for Failing a Drug Test While on Probation?

If your probation is revoked then you would have to serve any suspended sentence in county jail. This is typically the end result of a probation violation hearing, during which you and your legal counsel have a chance to argue against the result, argue that a punishment like rehabilitation or counseling would be more fitting, or argue that the violation didn’t occur in the first place.

In addition, a judge could choose to impose jail time as a penalty. Say you were six months into your probation when you failed yet another drug test. The judge has no time for what they call “your excuses” and instead sentences you to jail time. Despite serving six months of probation, you would be sentenced for the maximum term of the original offense.

This is an unlikely punishment for those who have only failed one drug test but have a fairly clean criminal record. However, those with a long history of criminal behavior and those who have failed multiple drug tests have a much higher chance of getting a harsh outcome like this.

Can an Attorney Help Me Prevent Harsh Punishments?

While a failed drug test can be a scary thing when you’re on probation, they aren’t necessarily the end of the world. An experienced probation attorney can help you to build a case that proves the failed test was a mistake, or they could create a compelling argument as to why you deserve to be treated with compassion and offered help rather than a harsh punishment.

It is important, however, to remember that an attorney is not a superhero. If you are constantly failing drug tests, then there is little they can do for you if a judge decides to make an example out of you. For the best results, you need to put in the effort to show that you are trying your best to be a good citizen and stay on the law’s good side