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A court drug test can be ordered to fulfil a legal requirement that an individual is, or is remaining, drug-free. In family law cases involving child custody, for example, the court may require drug testing to safeguard children. A solicitor may order drug testing to prove their client’s abstinence. In addition, private fee-paying individuals can request drug testing to help further their cause in family proceedings.

What kind of drug tests do courts use?

There is a wide variety of drug tests that could be used for legal cases and the reports used in court. The choice depends on what substance needs to be detected and in what timescale.

AlphaBiolabs’ legal drug testing options include:

  •  Urine
  •  Oral fluid
  •  Hair (both head and body)
  •  Nail clippings

A urine sample is useful because it is effective at detecting recent drug use and allows for comfortable and non-invasive specimen collection. Urine drug testing is known as a ‘narrow-window’ form of testing as its period of detection is only a few days, although this can depend on the particular substance taken. Most drugs will be flushed out of your body in a matter of days. Drugs including cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA can be present in urine for roughly 3–5 days, but cannabis can stay in your urine for as long as 28 days after chronic use. Similarly, oral fluid testing is quick and produces immediate results. It detects recent drug use from 30–60 minutes after ingestion up to 2 days, although again this can depend on the particular substance taken.

Both urine and oral fluid testing, however, cannot detect drug usage over a longer period of time. For this, courts may turn to hair drug testing, which offers a much wider window of detection (up to 12 months). In addition, if there is sufficient sample, head hair samples can be segmented to provide month-by-month analyses, which can give a historic overview of drug intake. Body hair can be analysed if there is insufficient head hair but this form of testing cannot determine a specific timeframe of drug use. Body hair analysis generally provides up to a 12-month overview.

Nail clippings is another useful form of testing when there is insufficient hair available. Nail drug testing can provide a 6-month overview of drug use. Further information on AlphaBiolabs’ drug testing services and the types of drugs able to be detected can be found here.

How are the drug testing samples collected for court cases?

The donor’s sample must be provided under supervised observation to deter any form of adulteration or tampering. Because legal drug tests need to stand as evidence in court they need to be performed under specific instructions, known as chain of custody. A trained sample collector would need to ensure that the correct individual is providing the sample by checking ID, taking photographs and getting signed paperwork. A medical professional, such as a GP, may also be able to collect the samples and send them securely back to the Alphabiolabs laboratory for testing. As such, the sample does not leave the custody of those who are legally responsible for ensuring the authenticity of its results. Legal samples can also be collected for free at our nationwide Walk in Centres.

For information on any of AlphaBiolabs’ legal drug testing services, call us on 0333 600 1300; email:;