air force drug conviction

Air Force Officer’s Conviction for Wrongful Drug Use Overturned After Court Finds the Government Violated Airman’s Rights in Obtaining Urine Sample

The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals recently decided the case of United States v. Khalji and overturned Captain Khalji’s conviction for wrongful use of cocaine. Captain Khalji was an Air Force JAG who came to work one day exhibiting strange behavior and smelling of alcohol. Her fellow Airmen became concerned and she was asked to provide samples of her blood and urine for analysis. The Captain exercised her rights and refused to answer questions or provide the requested samples.

The command then turned to a military magistrate who ordered a blood sample be taken based upon the evidence of her behavior and the smell of alcohol. While the Captain was at the clinic with personnel from Security Forces awaiting the blood draw, she began to have a panic attack. An ambulance arrived and took the Captain to an off-base hospital. While she was at the hospital, members of the Captain’s command spoke to medical personnel and mistakenly informed them that they had a magistrate order for the Captain’s “labs”. Military and medical personnel operated under the mistaken belief that the Captain had to provide both a blood and urine sample. When the Captain was unable to provide enough urine to be tested, the medical personnel inserted a catheter to collect enough urine to test.

Captain Khalji’s blood, collected 12 hours after she arrived for work, showed a blood alcohol level of .011. Her urine tested positive for cocaine. Captain Khalji was charged with, and convicted of, being drunk on duty and the wrongful use of cocaine.

At trial and on appeal, the Captain’s attorneys argued that the blood and urine collected by the hospital were unlawfully obtained and that the results of the tests should be suppressed. The appellate court agreed that the collection of the urine sample was a violation of Captain Khalji’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the sample was not medically necessary nor was it properly ordered by the command. The Court further found that because this sample was unlawfully obtained, the evidence collected later regarding the drug use was “fruit of the poisonous tree” and should also have been excluded at trial.

The Court set aside the finding of guilty on the drug charge and dismissed it. The case was returned for a new sentencing proceeding for the drunk on duty charge.

If you or your loved one is facing a court-martial or wants to appeal a court-martial conviction, you need someone with experience who knows the law. I have the experience you need. Please contact Bill Cassara at (706) 860-5769 for a free consultation.

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William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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