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Clinton Issues Directive On Drug Testing Federal Arrestees


February 1996

On December 18, President Clinton issued a directive ordering the Attorney General to draft a policy for the drug testing of all federal arrestees for illegal drugs ("President Clinton Signs Directive on Drug Testing of Federal Arrestees," 58 CrL 1291; Pierre Thomas and Ann Devroy, "President Clinton to Order Drug Testing for All Arrested on Federal Charges," Washington Post, December 15, 1995, p. A6; "Presidential Order to Make Drug Testing Condition of Bail for Federal Arrestees," 58 CrL 1263).

In materials sent to the Department of Justice, the President asked that all federal arrestees (regardless of their charge) be subject to a drug test, with the results of those tests revealed to the prosecutor before bail hearings. The prosecutor could then use the results of the test to recommend that the defendant be required to submit to testing or drug treatment as a condition of bail. Arrestees who fail subsequent drug tests would be subject to "appropriate measures" by the court.

"When you enter the federal criminal justice system, you will be tested," Clinton said. "If you have been taking drugs you should suffer the consequences. The administration is committed to breaking this link between crime and drugs. Indeed, if we could break it we could dramatically lower the crime rate."

"Unless we break the cycle of drugs and crime, criminal addicts will end up back on the street, committing more crimes, and then right back in the criminal justice system still hooked on drugs. That's not fair to the taxpayers, the crime victims, or the American public. The cycle must be broken."

Clinton likened the testing program to those instituted by large corporations. Although no arrestee would be required to take a drug test, the institution of a universal program would be a "powerful incentive" for arrestees not to take drugs. Clinton ordered the Attorney General to find ways to encourage states to adopt universal drug testing of their arrestees as well.

In areas that already have such a drug testing program, Clinton said that 80 percent of arrestees agree to take the test. If someone refuses to take a drug test, Clinton said, that information could be reported to the judge in a bail hearing.

Robert Fogelnest, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, criticized the directive. "U.S. attorneys have no right to make your willingness to take a drug test a condition of release or an issue at a bail hearing," he said. "Under our Constitution, that's not a permissible reason for a judge to keep citizens in jail" (Associated Press, "Drug Testing Plan Drawing Criticism," New York Times, December 17, 1995, p. 32).

Clinton asked that the parameters of the new policy be reported to him by March 1.

[For a copy of the President's order and his statement about drug testing, contact the NewsBriefs office.]