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Attempts to fake drug tests rising

Balloons, shampoo bottles, tin foil. These are a few common items some have used in attempts to fake a drug test in Davison County in recent years. As the number of drug arrests increase, so do the number of probationers taking urinalysis tests i...

Balloons, shampoo bottles, tin foil.

These are a few common items some have used in attempts to fake a drug test in Davison County in recent years.

As the number of drug arrests increase, so do the number of probationers taking urinalysis tests in the county, said Deputy Chief Court Services Officer Ron Freeman, but along with the rise comes an increase in the number of people trying to beat the test.

"There was a time when we didn't have any issues with it, at least that we were aware of, but it's something we've become more aware of in the last several years," Freeman said.

So far in 2016, Court Services, the department that handles probation for the county, has caught at least three individuals trying to provide a fake urine sample. The numbers are even higher for the Davison County Jail staff, who have caught six, according to Jail Administrator Don Radel.

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"Unfortunately, the only way you can judge it is by how many you can catch," Radel said. "I hope we're catching them all."

The jail's most recent bout with the issue arrived July 1 via a 45-year-old Mitchell man on the 24/7 sobriety program awaiting trial for possession of a controlled substance. Staff observed the man acting "antsy," Radel said, and allegedly found him in possession of a Whizzinator, a product that helps the user fake a urinalysis.

A urinalysis test is a procedure typically administered by corrections staff, court services officers or, in some cases, law enforcement, in which the tester urinates in a cup, allowing the sample to be tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol.

Although the officer remains in the room, testers are usually provided some privacy. Officers observe behavior and check the sample's temperature, and if anything seems out of place, the administrator may pat down the individual, which may uncover a hidden item, like a Whizzinator.

The item is sold online for about $140 and comes with heating pads and one vial of "the highest quality synthetic urine," according to the TheWhizzinator.com. The product has been "proven to work in real-life situations," the website said.

Court Services officers administer UAs every day, and jail staff test some participants of the 24/7 sobriety program twice a week and test some inmates seeking release on bond.

One female inmate even used tin foil from a juice cup to cover the top of a shampoo bottle and proceeded to insert it inside her body in an attempt to fake the test.

"They're creative as much as they want to be," Radel said.

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Seeking solutions

To catch would-be violators, Freeman said Court Services requires individuals to remove their jackets and either roll up their sleeves or remove a long-sleeved shirt. For some frequent violators, the officer must actually watch the urine leave the person's body.

"It's gotten to the point with some folks where, if we know we can't trust them or we feel we can't, that's when we make the switch to, unfortunately, this is going to become very personal," Freeman said. "It's the reality of the world we live in, nowadays."

Statewide, parole officers have been facing the issue for years, but Doug Clark, director of parole for the South Dakota Department of Corrections, said the attempted falsification isn't "terribly frequent."

"I think for as long as there's been UAs tested, there's been people trying to adulterate them," Clark said.

Clark said the number of parolees trying to beat the test isn't growing, but the issue "ebbs and flows with drug use."

In addition to Whizzinators and bottles, some of which are "pretty good at fooling people," Clark said, some parolees ingest chemicals or other substances to cleanse their system before taking the test.

"I haven't seen those to be very effective," Clark said. "There's been so many throughout the years that I just lump them all into a not-a-good-idea category."

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While processes in place make it difficult to fake a UA, Clark said the real solution will come from parole and probation officers observing behavior outside the UA setting, where evidence of drug and alcohol use could manifest.

Penalties

Other than a charge of probation violation, there is no penalty for using a Whizzinator or other device to fake a urinalysis test, nor is there any penalty for giving urine to another person to fool an officer, Radel said.

A DNA test could show the sample was a fraud, but Radel has never heard of anyone taking that step. When a balloon or bottle is discovered, however, Radel said it's clear the sample came from another person.

"If you're not worried about yours, you're not going to carry around a shampoo bottle full of somebody else's," he said.

Some drug and alcohol violators prepare their samples long in advance of any actual test. In March, Chamberlain Police Chief Joe Hutmacher told The Daily Republic his officers have commonly found bottles of clean urine in refrigerators when executing search warrants, and these samples often come from the users' children.

A medical expert may be able to conduct tests to tell the difference between urine samples from people of different ages or genders, Radel said, but corrections officers are limited to observation.

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