Appeals Court (March 23, 2009)

A judge may not order a defendant to submit to random drug or alcohol testing as a condition of probation unless it is reasonably related to one or more of the goals of probation: punishment, deterrence, retribution, protection of the public, or rehabilitation.

The defendant was convicted of several firearm offenses. As part of his sentence, the defendant received a period of probation during which he was required to abstain from alcohol and drugs and undergo random testing. The defendant did not use drugs or alcohol during the commission of the crimes; nor, did the defendant have a criminal history involving the use of drugs or alcohol. On appeal, the defendant challenges the probationary condition that he submit to random testing.

M.G.L. c. 276, § 87 allows the trial court to place a defendant on probation with conditions after a finding or verdict of guilty. The primary goals of probation are rehabilitation of the probationer, protection of the public, punishment, deterrence and retribution. These goals are best served if the conditions of probation are tailored to address the particular characteristics of the defendant and the crime. Because random drug and alcohol testing of a defendant constitutes a search and seizure under Article 14 of the Declaration of Rights, the condition must be reasonably related to legitimate probationary goals to withstand constitutional scrutiny.


In this case, the Court ruled that the imposed condition of random drug and alcohol testing is not related any of the recognized goals of probation. Therefore, the case was remanded for re-sentencing.

Note: The Court pointed out that "this is a fact-intensive inquiry, dependent on the circumstances and characteristics of the particular defendant and his offenses."