Wrongful Drug Use or Possession -- UCMJ Article 112a


The wrongful use or possession of a controlled substance is a common offense under the UCMJ.   Military prosecutors charge this misconduct under UCMJ Article 112a. 

Controlled substances include any substance which is included in Schedules I through V established by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (21 U.S.C. 812).  Common examples include:  amphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy/MDMA, heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, methamphetamine, and opium.

Most wrongful drug use in the military is detected via the urinalysis program.  Jeff Meeks and Bruce White have decades of experience as military lawyers litigating urinalysis cases.  There are typically three time periods or phases to analyze in every urinalysis case.

The first phase to review is the factual scenario surrounding the alleged ingestion of a drug or controlled substance.  Not all drug use is wrongful.  The lawful of use of prescription drugs is an obvious example of use that is totally appropriate.  But even if there is no prescription, or the substance has no lawful use, a controlled substance can also be ingested unknowingly.  Unknowing ingestion usually is not wrongful.  For example, the ingestion of a substance a person truly thought to be sugar but was actually cocaine would normally not be wrongful.  There are many other scenarios where use of a controlled substance is not knowing or wrongful.  An effective military lawyer will carefully review the ingestion phase of your case prior to advising you on your best course of action.

The second phase to review in any urinalysis case is the urine collection effort.  Although military urinalysis programs have been around for decades, occasionally military units will still conduct substandard collection efforts that will not survive the scrutiny of detailed analysis by an effective military lawyer.  Jeff Meeks and Bruce White will use their comprehensive knowledge of urinalysis programs to carefully review the facts of your individual case to determine if there are grounds to attack the collection effort. 

The final phase that military lawyers must carefully examine is the actual testing of the urine sample.  Although the military drug testing laboratories are generally good, they involve complex processes run by human beings.  Occasionally, mistakes are made.  Perhaps that occurred in your case.

Article 112a use or possession cases may also involve factual scenarios that do not include urinalysis testing.  You need an experienced military lawyer to guide you through this type of case as well.  Occasionally, controlled substances are found in barracks rooms or vehicles.  There are often disputes as to who actually owns the substance in question.  Further, in some cases, the searches or inspections that led to the discovery of controlled substances were not lawful or violated a service member's reasonable expectation of privacy.  The law can be very technical and complex in this area.  Your best course action is almost always to discuss your case with a qualified military lawyer prior to making any decisions that will impact the rest of your life.

Most simple use or possession cases are now handled via administrative action.  Cases may go to nonjudicial punishment or a summary court-martial.  All services then process those who wrongfully use or possess drugs for administrative separation via an administrative discharge board.  More serious cases will result in a special or general court-martial.  For example, possession of a large quantity of a controlled substance will typically result in referral to a special or general court-martial.  Drug distribution allegations are also prosecuted under UCMJ Article 112a and also usually result in a special or general court-martial

If you would like to discuss your drug use or possession case with a skilled military lawyer, Jeff Meeks and Bruce White have over 45 years of experience with these types of cases.  Call now for your free consultation.

Manual for Courts-Martial (2012)