Popped on a Piss Test: Navigating Article 112a, UCMJ

Have you popped on a piss test in the military? Facing a positive urinalysis result in the military can be a stressful experience, especially after your Sergeant Major, First Sergeant, or Senior Chief yells at you for using drugs. Article 112a, UCMJ, can seem like a daunting challenge, but with the right knowledge and legal guidance, you can navigate the complexities it presents. I’ve successfully handled more drug cases than any other topic.  In this article, we’ll explore drug charges under Article 112a from the perspective of an experienced defense attorney, providing you with valuable insights to help you understand your situation and address the threats you may encounter.

When I first found myself in the office for a failed drug test I knew it was coming because of the situation that unfolded. What happened was not my fault but I felt helpless. We were always told 0 tolerance if you fail a piss test you’re out…[At] the hearing Kevin spoke on my behalf with confidence and a certain swagger I was amazed a man that barely knew me was willing to fight like that simply because I was his client. When we left for the ADSEP board to discuss my innocence I’ll never forget the fact that they took 5 minutes to call us back in. Kevin left 0 room for debate we absolutely conquered my case and by a landslide at that…He very well might’ve saved my life and I hope if you get the chance to work with him you don’t have a doubt in your mind that it will be the best decision you’ve ever made to work with him.


Understanding Drug Charges In Article 112a, UCMJ

Article 112a – A Legal Minefield

Article 112a, UCMJ, isn’t just a collection of legal jargon; it’s a critical part of military law that can significantly impact your career and future. Let’s unravel it.

Drug Offenses Covered

Imagine popping on a piss test or testing positive on a urinalysis, and suddenly your commander is telling you that you’ve violated Article 112a. This article encompasses a wide range of drug offenses, including possession, use, distribution, manufacturing, and introducing drugs into the military. It’s crucial to understand the scope of what you’re facing.

The Department of Defense Initial Testing Cutoff Levels are:

Department of Defense Cutoff Levels for drug testing

Positive Urinalysis: The Common Scenario After Popping On A Piss Test

Many service members find themselves in the unfortunate position of “popping” on a urinalysis.  It often requires mandatory administrative processing and the threats that often follow can include the possibility of reduced rank at non-judicial punishment, loss of security clearance, and even administrative separation. Article 112a is frequently invoked based on positive urinalysis results, so let’s not underestimate the gravity of that little plastic cup.

If the drug class is one deemed more serious or threatening to the public, such as fentanyl, a common scenario is defending the case at a general or special court-martial.

The Role of a Defense Attorney

Your Legal Advocate

In situations like this, having a caring military defense attorney by your side is like having a dedicated advocate who understands the rules of the game. Here’s why their role is crucial, especially when dealing with commands who have determined your guilt in advance rather than presuming your innocence.

The Importance of Legal Representation

You might have heard your commander say, “This was wrongful use.” But don’t be fooled. A defense attorney brings the expertise needed to navigate Article 112a and can be your lifeline when facing threats of punishment.

Defense Attorney’s Expertise

I’ve witnessed clients who popped on a piss test and initially believed there was no hope in their cases.  Their command painted them as the black sheep of the unit.  Drugs were seen as more offensive than almost any other crime. But with my legal representation, my clients discovered that there were often hidden opportunities to challenge evidence and build a strong defense. A defense attorney’s knowledge can be the key to unlocking these possibilities.

Protecting Your Rights

Commanders may threaten that you have no options in this situation, but that’s not true. Your rights are your shield. A defense attorney is there to ensure that those rights are upheld, whether it’s questioning witnesses, challenging evidence, or guaranteeing a fair trial or hearing.

Building a Strong Defense

Your defense attorney’s role is to craft a solid defense strategy if you’ve popped on a piss test. They know how to gather evidence and structure arguments effectively. This is vital, especially when your commander is pushing for consequences that could have a lasting impact on your military career or prejudice your life after military service.

Elements of Article 112a Offenses

Deciphering the Code

Understanding the elements of Article 112a offenses is like learning the rules of a game. It empowers you to make informed decisions and build a robust defense.  With the help of an experienced military defense attorney, you’ll be able to do just that.

Understanding the Key Elements

In the face of threats and accusations, understanding the elements required for a conviction can give you a sense of control. It’s like knowing the opponent’s playbook. Article 112a states: Any person subject to this chapter who wrongfully uses, possesses, manufactures, distributes, imports into the customs territory of the United Stets, exports from the United States, or introduces ito an installation, vessel, vehicle, or aircraft used by or under the control of the armed forces a substance described in subsection (b) shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Knowledge and Intent

Commanders may assert that ignorance of the law is no excuse. But in some cases, proving a lack of knowledge of the drug after you’ve popped on a piss test can be a powerful and complete defense. If you didn’t knowingly use or possess the drug, it’s crucial to highlight this during your hearing.

Illegal Substance

When your commander says you were caught with an illegal substance, it’s essential to understand the nature of the substance and whether it falls under the Controlled Substances Act. For example, while possessing cocaine or heroin is straightforward illegal, how does the military treat CBD or hemp products?  Wrongfully using hemp-based products does not fall under Article 112a.  It may fall under another UCMJ Article, but knowing this distinction can be crucial for your defense.

Possession or Distribution

Accusations may include mentions of potential charges related to possession, use, distribution, or manufacturing. Each charge has its unique aspects, and understanding these differences is vital for your defense strategy.

Military Jurisdiction

In some cases, commands may threaten that the military has jurisdiction even for incidents off-base or on leave. A defense attorney can help determine whether your case indeed falls under military jurisdiction.

Positive Urinalysis

In the face of a positive urinalysis, a defense attorney can play a vital role in challenging the accuracy of these results, especially when errors or procedural issues are involved.

The Department of the Navy has a history of testing errors in its drug testing program at Great Lakes.

Defense Strategies

Your Toolkit for Defense

With threats looming, it’s essential to have a range of defense strategies at your disposal.

Available Defense Strategies

Your military defense attorney will employ the appropriate strategy for your case, whether it’s challenging evidence, questioning the procedure, proving a lack of intent, or highlighting the chain of custody issues.

Lack of Knowledge

When commanders assert that you should have known better, a lack of knowledge can be a powerful defense strategy if you genuinely didn’t realize you were committing an offense. I have won numerous boards on this topic.  We work with polygraphers to test the client and provide evidence of the client’s innocence.

Chain of Custody Issues

Urinalysis samples are valuable pieces of evidence. Your defense attorney will scrutinize the “chain of custody” to ensure the integrity of the evidence, especially when your commander is threatening to use it against you.

Fourth Amendment Violations

If your commander’s actions or the urinalysis procedure violated your Fourth Amendment rights, your defense attorney can argue for the inadmissibility of evidence obtained through such violations.  Did your command search a barracks room and find evidence of drugs or drug use?  In certain situations, this may be unlawful.

Prescription Medication

If you had a valid prescription for the substance detected, your defense attorney can use this as a strong defense. It shows that your use was legal, countering commander threats about the illegality of your actions.

Potential Penalties if You’ve Popped on a Piss Test

Facing the Consequences

Commands often lecture about potential consequences. Let’s break down what you might be up against.

Consequences of Article 112a Violations

Commanders may talk about the possibility of court-martial, confinement in the brig, loss of security clearance, rank reduction, fines, and even punitive or administrative separation. Knowing what’s at stake can help you prepare your defense strategy effectively.

If your command chooses to administratively separate you, you may face losing your career, separate with an other than honorable characterization of service, and potentially lose your GI Bill depending on your service history.  For service members who were born in another country, immigration consequences can be dire if they are separated with an OTH.

For those service members who received a charge sheet for drugs, the potential punishments include forfeiture of pay and allowances, a bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge, reduction to the rank of E-1, a reprimand, and confinement for a period of 2, 5, 10, or 15 years depending on the offense.  A drug charge in the military is a serious situation. 

The Impact of Positive Urinalysis Results

In cases involving positive urinalysis results, the impact on potential consequences can be severe. It’s essential to understand how this aspect intensifies the legal implications.


In challenging times like these, remember that you’re not alone. Understanding Article 112a, UCMJ, and having an experienced defense attorney by your side can be your best defense against threats and potential consequences if you’ve popped on a piss test or we caught with drugs. While facing a positive urinalysis result can be a daunting experience, knowledge and the right legal support can help you navigate the storm and work toward the best possible outcome for your situation.

Call Kevin Courtney Law at 760-385-3889 to discuss your case today and feel protected in a time of need.