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Southfield, Mich.— April 6, 2015— According to a Medical Market Research Report released on April 1, the drug and alcohol testing market will be worth $6.3 billion by 2019. However, criminal defense attorney, Neil Rockind, founder of Southfield-based Rockind Law, says the legal system is overusing and oversimplifying these tests, which have been increasing in popularity since the early 2000s, resulting in individuals being wrongfully accused of intentional alcohol consumption.
“For too long, individuals have had bonds revoked or probation sentences terminated because a test of their urine revealed the presence of Ethyl Glucuronide or Ethyl Sulfate, otherwise known as EtG and EtS,” Rockind said. “These six letters have wreaked havoc in our court system despite multiple warnings by Gregory Skipper, M.D., one of the innovators of EtG and EtS testing in the United States, to not overuse or oversimplify these tests.”
EtG and EtS are metabolites of Ethyl Alcohol and Ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks. But Ethyl Alcohol is also the type of alcohol that is used in thousands of daily products including but not limited to shampoos, hand sanitizers, foods, drinks, rubs and scrubs. Rockind states that once alcohol enters the body, most of it is absorbed into the lining of the individual’s stomach and intestine. However, a small percentage – as little as 0.02% – ends up in the liver. Once in the liver, the organ metabolizes the ethyl alcohol, modifying its structure and creating EtG and EtS.
“The problem is that even though EtG or EtS can be found in a subject’s urine, it is impossible to identify the source of the EtG or EtS,” Rockind said. “Meaning, alcohol found in an individual’s body from hand sanitizers, mouth wash or the like, produces the same kind of EtG and EtS as if the individual drank a martini. Neither the urine test nor blood testing chromatography can tell whether the EtG or EtS in a person’s system came from intentionally consumed alcohol or extraneous exposure to alcohol.”
Rockind says despite warnings, the legal system wanted this method of testing to be implemented immediately after it became available and did not take the proper steps to ensure the testing was adequate and accurate.
“In its zeal to use the tests as legal evidence, the courts and legal system as a whole did not allow adequate studies to be done to prove their reliability or the error rate of misidentifying those who consumed alcohol,” Rockind said. “What’s worse, there were no accepted cutoffs formally established to determine what levels were exclusive of incidental exposure versus evidence of intentional consumption. Accordingly, we have people accused of drinking based purely on EtG and EtS tests when many of these individuals did not drink or voluntarily consume alcohol. This is very serious because sentencing, including jail time, is often the result when these tests are used for individuals on probation for an alcohol related offense.”
Rockind states courts and probation departments are not being properly educated on these tests, even as the lucrative testing industry flourishes.
“I was recently in court during a probation violation hearing on the reliability of EtG and EtS testing to prove ‘consumption’ of alcohol,” Rockind said. “The probation officer, under oath, stated the liver has nothing to do with EtG and EtS – which we know is a false claim – along with other erroneous statements. When the hearing adjourned I couldn’t help but wonder how the probation department and courts became such advocates of this test, while understanding almost none of the science behind it.”
While Rockind says he doesn’t believe the courts are deliberately misusing the test or trying to ignore the science, he wants to bring broader attention to the matter and help properly educate those in the criminal and legal system so innocent individuals are not wrongfully accused of intentional alcohol consumption.
“The courts are likely being misinformed by those promoting EtG and EtS testing as a reliable way to test whether someone consumed alcohol,” Rockind said. “It is important the public, and those in a position to make legal decisions on probationary judgments, are properly informed on the science behind these tests so an individual’s innocence doesn’t come at the expense of the drug and alcohol testing industry trying to make another buck.”
Rockind is currently working with some of Michigan’s top biochemists and chemistry professors to demonstrate the EtG and EtS urine test cannot be used as it currently is: to identify individuals that intentionally consumed alcohol. Rockind is currently one of only about 300 attorneys in the U.S. to have completed a scientific forensics course held by the American Chemical Society. The hands-on class, the majority of which is conducted in a lab with participants working with their own Gas Chromatograph – Flame Ionization Detector instrument, educates attorneys on the use of blood testing instruments and the science behind forensic chromatography, a method used to separate organic and inorganic compounds in both liquid and gas. After separating the compounds, police, FBI and other authorities can then analyze the chemicals, such as drugs or alcohol, that are present in breath, blood and urine. Completion of this course allows Rockind to verify or challenge the court’s experts.
About Rockind Law
Rockind Law is a Southfield, Michigan-based criminal defense law firm aggressively pursuing justice for individuals facing criminal charges, including white collar crime, drunk driving, narcotics and assault. To find out more about the firm’s services and resources, visit http://www.rockindlaw.com/.