Fighting crime by the cup
Urinalysis program considered a valuable crime-fighting tool
05/24/2010
FREDERICK NEWS-POST

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Four little words can strike fear in the most seasoned of criminals: Pee in this cup.

For the thousands of people monitored by the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, the urinalysis program is a reality they face on a regular basis.

And the program is central to the division's goals, said George V. Kirk, supervisor of the division's field office at the Frederick County Courthouse.

"We can't accomplish our mission without the urinalysis program," Kirk said.

Holding past criminals accountable by having them undergo random tests to detect drug and alcohol use can transform them into law-abiding citizens.

Seventy-five percent of those under supervision have substance abuse problems, Kirk said.

"It helps protect the public and the community at large by preventing crime," he said.

For those court-ordered to report to parole or probation agents, they know what's at risk if their urine tests positive for alcohol or drugs.

Not only would it constitute a violation of their release from jail or prison, but for some it also could result in a new misdemeanor charge if authorities think they've tried to alter their sample to fraudulently pass their test.

If convicted of attempting to alter a sample once, an offender faces as much as a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Subsequent convictions may be punished by three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

In recent months, with great assistance from the Frederick Police Department and others, authorities have been taking steps to enforce the law with renewed vigor, Kirk said.

Four Frederick County men find themselves in just that spot, and their cases are making their way through the criminal justice process, according to court records.

Grant S. Edmondson, 19, of Frederick , has a June 10 hearing scheduled in District Court; he is suspected of trying to sneak clean urine from a container into the cup March 4.

A technician observing Eric Jay Robertson, 45, and William Glenn Smith, 41, both of Frederick , witnessed similar circumstances on Oct. 19 and April 2, respectively, Assistant State's Attorney Kelly A. Bruton said.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Robertson, who failed to appear in court.

Smith is to appear in District Court on June 3.

Robertson and Smith fled from Parole and Probation when the police were called.

After requesting a jury trial, Paul Joseph Costabile, 24, of Emmitsburg pleaded guilty March 5 and sentencing is set for Aug. 20, more than a year after he tried to pass a bad urine sample July 30, 2009.

State's Attorney Charlie Smith said he has no sympathy for people who try to circumvent the system trying to help them get back on track legally.

"It's bad enough that they are violating probation by doing drugs, but to commit another crime to avoid accountability makes it much worse," Smith said.

"That's why we approved new criminal charges instead of merely violating their probation."