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What is a Chemical Urine Sample at a DMV Administrative Per Se/DUI Hearing?

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What is a Chemical Urine Sample?

In years past, any driver who was arrested for suspicion of DUI in the State of California would expect the arresting law enforcement officer to give him or her the option to provide a blood, breath or urine sample to determine their blood/alcohol concentration. Well that may have been the acceptable norm in the 1970’s and 1980’s but in today’s world of DUI arrests, things have changed.

Because analysis of a urine sample is classically the most unreliable of the testing procedures, and because the seizing of a urine sample can be most unpleasant for police officers, who would therefore not follow proper protocols in the collection of these samples; experienced DMV Defense Experts were seeing great success in attacking this type of evidence in Administrative Per Se hearings before the DMV. Of course, that was not acceptable to the DMV hierarchy and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.   This caused a tremendous lobbying effort which resulted in the California State Legislature amending the Vehicle Code to omit urinalysis as a primary option of chemical analysis for California drivers.

On January 1, 1999, California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 23612 (a)(1)(A) was amended, such that urinalysis is no longer one of the primary chemical tests offered to drivers suspected of DUI. CVC section 23612 (C) (2) (d) reads, in part…..if both the blood and breath tests are unavailable, the person shall be deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical testing of his or her urine and shall submit to a urine test…”

Today, a law enforcement officer will only request a driver to submit to urinalysis if:

  • The driver is suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance or prescription medication.
  • The driver is suspected of being under the “combined” influence of alcohol and a controlled substance and/or prescription medication, or
  • Blood or breath testing is not readily available.

Although the Vehicle Code specifically mandates that a driver may ask for a urine test as a “secondary” form of testing, the reality is his request will likely be denied and the law will turn a blind eye. For the most part, urine samples are only collected if the law enforcement officer deems it necessary, not because the driver wishes to exercise his right to this test.

In order for a urine sample to be determined reliable, the subject driver is instructed to enter a restroom and completely void his or her bladder. The police officer should then wait for a period of 15-20 minutes before directing the driver to re-enter the restroom and now urinate into a specimen jar.

The initial problem here is that many people are not ready to urinate again in only 15-20 minutes, which invariably causes the arresting officer to wait for a longer period of time to collect the sample. Law Enforcement Officers are not the most patient people and if a person is not able to fill a specimen jar 15-20 after a full void, it can create problems which ultimately may escalate to the point that the arresting officer may allege the driver refused a chemical test.

If a driver is capable of filling a specimen cup after the first void, the sampling should be witnessed by a police officer to ensure the integrity of the specimen and to begin the “Chain of Custody.” In many instances, police officers are either not properly trained or simply ignore the process requiring the complete voiding of the bladder prior to the collection of the actual sample. Frankly, some law enforcement officers are just uncomfortable standing nearby at watching a person urinate, but that is what the law requires.

There are countless examples of a law enforcement officer handing a driver a specimen jar and simply telling him or her to “fill it up.” There is no primary void and there is no witnessing to ensure the integrity of the sample. If this can be demonstrated, it clearly violates provisions of Title 17, of the California Code of Regulations, and may be enough to win a DMV Administrative Per Se hearing.

Once a urine sample is collected, it is handled much the same as a chemical blood sample. The chain of custody must be established and the sample must be tested by an authorized forensic laboratory.


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Based on the physiology of the human body, alcohol is eliminated from the body by the kidneys. Secretions of alcohol mix with urine and are held in the bladder until being evacuated from the body through urination. It is not uncommon for a person to go hours between instances of urination and therefore, high concentrations of alcohol may be present in the bladder even though the impairing effects on the body have ceased.

Additionally, the bladder is a collection point for all forms of bacteria and other compounds waiting to leave the body. A bacteria in the urinary tract known as candida albicans can cause a urine sample to ferment. In this instance, blood/alcohol concentration levels can increase during storage in the specimen cup.

Chemical Urine Tests are also subject to providing “false positives” because there is no specificity between ethanol that may be consumed in an alcoholic beverage versus ethanol that appears in may household products. Everyday products such as Purrell, Listerine, several sanitizers, and body washes all contain varying levels of ethanol that can be absorbed into the human body. Factors such as dehydration, metabolism and fluid intake all effect how long the human body will hold waste in the bladder which means that a variety of chemicals can accumulate in the bladder that all contain varying levels of alcohol. Also, because a chemical urine test involves the analysis of alcohol in water, as opposed to alcohol in blood, the urine analysis provides consistently high readings to occur.

The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, authored a warning to law enforcement and the courts warning that chemical urine samples should not be used other than in a clinical environment to determine alcohol relapse. It should not be used to determine blood/alcohol concentration.

The bottom line is that chemical urine testing is just terrible science and should not be considered reliable.

If your DUI case is based upon a Chemical Urine Test… Call CDA today.[/fusion_title]

If you are facing an Administrative Per Se hearing before the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and if your blood/alcohol concentration is based upon the analysis of a Chemical Urine Test, you have a set of facts that may lead to a victory at your hearing. Although the DMV will automatically presume that the blood/alcohol concentration is correct, that is a rebuttable presumption and there is a lot of science which proves that chemical urine samples cannot be trusted. Unfortunately, suspecting that the chemical urine test is inaccurate is not the same as proving it. Successfully attacking a chemical urine sample requires expert knowledge in the areas of law, science and DMV procedure. Pick up the phone and call the DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates (CDA). Our DMV Defense team has been attacking chemical urine tests and proving them to be inaccurate for years. We can do the same for you.

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