Random alcohol testing in the Marine Corps

In an effort to reduce on-duty drunkenness, the Marine Corps established a twice annual random breath test for blood alcohol levels. All ranks will participate in this screening. The Corps concluded that alcohol abuse factors into many societal problems among Marines, on- or off-duty. Some marines consider two or three six-packs to be social drinking.

The screening will supplement the already established random test for illegal drug use. A result of 0.01 will require counseling and 0.04 a medical staff evaluation. Other discipline is possible.

People who carry loaded weapons, handle explosives, operate heavy machinery, or drive vehicles need to be sober. No question. That is the idea behind the strict testing guidelines.

The ethical question arises: should these random tests of individuals be permitted? Breathalyzers are not always accurate and could put military men and women at risk of career consequences and discipline. But even some civilian employers use random drug and alcohol testing now, usually before hiring a new employee. It isn’t too surprising that military workers would be held to an even stricter standard.

Because history proves that breath tests can wrongly incriminate a person, any mandated testing that could result in punishment is worth concern. This applies to all cases of a breath test. If a civilian is pulled over, tested and then arrested for DUI, an experienced drunk driving defense attorney would investigate whether the testing device was working properly at the time. Technology is not always the friend that we think it is.

Source: The Washington Times, “Marines to test for drunkenness on duty,” Rowan Scarborough. Dec. 14, 2012

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