Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Eighth Circuit Holds Sweat Patches Generally Reliable

The Eighth Circuit court of appeals held that sweat patches were a sufficiently reliable method of determining drug usage to support federal probation revocation.

Mark Lou Meyer, a federal prisoner, appealed an Iowa federal district court?s revocation of his probation. Two conditions of his probation were not to use illegal drugs and not to travel outside the Northern District of Iowa. Within eight months, Meyer was tested sixteen times for drug usage using the PharmChem sweat patch. The first eight times, he tested negative for drugs. The ninth time, the sweat patch came off somehow, so the test, which was positive, was considered invalid by the district court. The next seven times, the tests care back positive for cocaine. Urinalysis performed at the same time came hack negative for cocaine. Soon after the sixteenth test, Meyer traveled to Aurora, Illinois, without permission, to have his hair tested.

The sweat patch is affixed to the skin for a week or more. Sweat is absorbed into and evaporated from the patch, leaving behind drugs and their metabolites. As explained by a biochemist, the sweat patch is more sensitive than urinalysis and tests 24 hours a day whereas urinalysis works only a few days after drug usage. In this case, the sweat patch revealed a low level of cocaine usage, possibly undetectable by urinalysis. Based upon the expert?s testimony, the district court revoked the probation for illegal drug use. It also revoked the probation for unauthorized travel outside the Northern District of Iowa. Meyer appealed.

The Eighth Circuit joined the 10th Circuit and some federal district courts in holding that the sweat patch is a generally reliable device for determining illegal drug usage. The biochemist provided a rational explanation on why the sweat patch was positive while the urinalysis was not. The hair test proved nothing because hair tests were questionable and Meyer never proved that he grew the tested hair. Furthermore, it is undisputed that Meyer traveled without authorization. Therefore, the Eighth Circuit upheld the district court?s revocation of Meyer?s probation on both grounds independently. See: United States v. Meyer, 483 F.3d 865 (8th Cir. 2007).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

United States v. Meyer