Military performs random alcohol tests on service members

A report recently released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) stated that drug and alcohol abuse among service members was a "public health crisis" that could negatively impact service members' "force readiness and psychological fitness." This report may have contributed to the new random breathalyzer program being used by the Marines.

The program, which began in January of 2013, requires all Marines to receive random breath alcohol tests at least twice a year. Anyone with a blood alcohol level over 0.01 percent can be referred by a commander to substance abuse counseling. Those with a reading over 0.04 percent can be referred to medical personnel and could be considered unfit for duty. As a result, these randomized tests could lead to military justice issues.

Basis for random tests

The report issued by the Institute of Medicine and commissioned through the Department of Defense found the percent of active-duty service members who reported binge drinking jumped 12 percent from 1998 to 2008. This, in addition to the fact that there were 13 alcohol related deaths among Marines in 2011, may have played a role in the new randomized testing policy.

The Marine Corps Alcohol Screening Program is designed to reinforcing healthy lifestyles as part of the Secretary of the Navy's 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative.

Sgt. Tamara Kimbell, assistant substance abuse control officer for Headquarters and Support Battalion in Camp Pendleton, supported this effort in a statement released in January of 2013. She stated the intent of the program is to "remind Marines that alcohol is not something that we use on a daily basis, and it's inappropriate to come to work under the influence." In addition, the Corps released a statement explaining that the testing is designed to allow commanders the ability to test all Marines in their unit and take any actions regarding training, education and counseling as needed.

Positive test can have negative impact on military career

According to a report by the United States Coast Guard, alcohol abuse is a top ten medical condition that leads to a finding of medically unfit for duty. As a result, the random blood alcohol testing can be detrimental to a service member's military career.

Those who are subject to the randomized tests and have blood alcohol readings above the listed limits may face legal action and should take charges seriously. Contact an experienced military law attorney to discuss your situation and better ensure your legal rights are protected.