Random Drug Testing of Government Employees: A Constitutional Procedure

38 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2015

See all articles by Edward S. Adams

Edward S. Adams

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law

Date Written: 1987


On July 30, 1986, President Reagan first hinted that a major policy initiative was underway to curb drug use within the ranks of federal government. Two and one half months later, the President signed an executive order to initiate drug testing for a broad range of the federal government's 2.8 million civilian employees. The President earmarked approximately $56 million for the first year of the program.

Government employee drug testing prompts numerous legal considerations. The paramount question, however, is whether random government drug testing of its employees is permissible under the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution. The answer to that question is yes: random drug testing of government employees is entirely consistent with fourth amendment guarantees if the government observes certain constitutional safeguards.

Part I of this comment considers the societal effects of drug use, the purposes of drug testing, and the effectiveness of such tests. Part II proposes a random drug testing procedure that passes fourth amendment scrutiny, as later parts of this comment demonstrate. With this comment's model testing procedure as a focal point, Part III examines the fourth amendment issues implicated by random drug testing of government employees, and demonstrates that the fourth amendment does not bar all random testing. Finally, Part IV moves beyond the fourth amendment and illustrates that the procedure for employee evaluation and termination implemented by the Drug Testing Proposal of Part II complies with due process requirements.

Keywords: Random Drug Testing, Fourth Amendment

Suggested Citation

Adams, Edward S., Random Drug Testing of Government Employees: A Constitutional Procedure (1987). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 54, pp. 1335-1372, 1987. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2625322

Edward S. Adams (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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