What is ETG Testing

EtG (Ethyl Glucuronide) is a common urine test used by Courts to verify whether an individual on bond or probation has used alcohol in the past 3 to 5 days.  EtG testing is usually performed at an outside agency which the Court deems reliable (such as JAMS, NOVA, DOTS, etc.).  It is favored in many Courts in lieu of a breathalyzer test based upon how far back it can detect alcohol.  A breathalyzer test or a blood test may only be able to detect alcohol for hours based upon the body’s rapid elimination of alcohol from the body. Alcohol is eliminated from the body at a rate of approximately 1 drink per hour.

The EtG test is used to document abstinence from alcohol, to detect relapse, and to screen for drinking problems.   Although the EtG test is deemed to be very reliable, there are instances of false positive tests due to a person’s exposure (as opposed to consumption) to alcohol through household cleaning and personal hygiene products.  Incidental exposure to vanilla extract can also produce EtG concentrations in excess of 100 ng/ml.   Testing that has occurred on cleaning, personal hygiene, and food products to determine incidental or unintentional exposure to alcohol has never produced a positive EtG level greater than 500 ng/ml, and this is sometimes used as a cut off level for Courts.
EtG can also be tested in hair and nails, with a window of detection of 3 months.  The bleaching of hair and chlorine exposure may reduce or eliminate EtG presence in hair.  However, EtG urine testing is far more commonly used by Courts.
When a breathalyzer test or EtG test is missed, many Judges will assume that the use of alcohol was the main factor in why the test was missed.  Sometimes when a bonder or probationer misses a breathalyzer test, the Court is satisfied if he or she has an EtG test done within 80 hours of the missed breathalyzer test.  However, generally, Judges expect that the orders that they give are followed exactly.
When an individual on bond tests positive for alcohol through a breathalyzer or an EtG test, or fails to test as ordered, the usual result is for the Court to initiate a show cause hearing or bond revocation hearing.  If the positive breathalyzer or EtG reading occurs while the person is on probation, or testing is missed, the probation department usually files with the Court a request to violate the probationer on his or her probation.  The individual accused of violating bond or probation has a right to contest the allegation at a hearing through his or her lawyer.
If the Court determines the violation of bond or a violation of probation is valid due to a positive or missed breathalyzer and/or EtG test, the result is possible incarceration. Incarceration is not mandatory, and always at the discretion of the Court.  When the bond or probation offense is for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OUIL or OUIN), or operating while impaired (OWI), there is always a concern by the Court as to whether or not the general public is being placed at risk.  Judges expect that the conditions of bond or probation that they impose are followed, and always consider a violation of bond or a violation of probation to be an erosion of the respect of the Court system.  Some Judges also understand that relapse is often a part of the recovery process, and may give additional opportunities for the bonder or probationer with a positive breathalyzer or a positive EtG to fully comply with all terms of bond or probation.
When facing a criminal charge, a violation of bond, or a violation of probation it is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, such as the lawyers at Hilf & Hilf, PLC.  An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you obtain the best possible result given your particular circumstances.