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Legal Penalties for a Positive Cocaine Drug Test

It can be challenging to determine if your cocaine use will show up on a drug test. According to American Addiction Centers, “Cocaine is a very fast-acting central nervous system stimulant that produces an intense but short-lived euphoric high, lasting for only a few minutes to an hour.” However, even though the high is short, cocaine can stay in your system for a long time. Let’s look at the legal ramifications of a positive cocaine drug test.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in my System?

Cocaine’s effects depend on the method of use:

  • Snorting: Effects felt within 3-5 minutes and persist for up to 20 minutes
  • Smoking: Effects felt within 5-10 seconds and last for up to 20 minutes
  • Intravenous use: Effects felt within 5-10 seconds and stay for up to 20 minutes
  • Oral ingestion: Effects felt within 10-30 minutes and continue for up to 90 minutes (1)

Determining exactly when all of your tests could come back negative is impossible. How long cocaine stays in your body depends on many factors, which include:

  • Metabolism
  • Body mass
  • Age
  • Hydration level
  • Other factors

What Kinds of Tests Could I Face?

Employers, law enforcement officers, rehabilitation centers, and even family or loved ones may choose from many screening tests available. Cocaine or its metabolites typically can show up on tests that include:

  • Blood: tests positive for up to 2 days
  • Saliva: tests positive for up to 2 days
  • Urine: tests positive for up to 3 days, but a heavy user can test positive for up to 2 weeks
  • Hair follicle testing is positive for months to even years later (1)

Legal Penalties for Positive Cocaine Drug Test

NC Law states that employers who test employees for controlled substances shall use reliable and minimally invasive examinations and screenings. They may also select tests from a range of cost-effective and advanced drug testing technologies. 

However, there are no criminal consequences for failing a cocaine drug test unless:

  • You’re on probation and fail a court-ordered test, or your employer reports the results of your testing to your probation officer.
  • Your employer calls the police after you fail a drug test and you possess an illegal drug on your person, in your home, or your work area. 
  • You receive a DUI for impaired driving which leads to drug testing showing that you were driving while impaired by a controlled substance. If you work operating heavy machinery or drive as part of your employment, your employer may call law enforcement if you seem high. At this point, law enforcement may catch you in the act of driving while impaired.

Non-Criminal Consequences of a Positive Test

There can be other non-criminal consequences to failing a drug test for cocaine. 

  • Custody of Children: If you agree to let social services test your urine, this could affect custody issues for your children. It could affect how much time your children spend with you and even cause court-ordered supervision for your visitations. 
  • Biologic tests may show cocaine use during pregnancy. In NC, cocaine use during pregnancy is not considered child abuse or grounds for civil commitment. However, in some states, you can face legal repercussions for cocaine use during pregnancy. In NC, medical providers offer drug treatment programs for pregnant individuals. (2)
  • Employment: Depending on your employer, you can face termination or a rehabilitation program to keep your job if you use illegal drugs. If employed by the state or the department of education, you can lose your position and eligibility for rehire.

Legal Charges 

A 2007 unanimous court ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court stated that a positive drug test by itself is not enough to support a conviction for drug possession. According to The Carolina Journal, the case shows that “drug possession requires that a defendant have the “power and intent to control” the “disposition or use” of the substance. (3)

On the other hand, if you test positive for cocaine and someone calls law enforcement who then finds cocaine in your possession, you can face serious charges. 

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we specialize in defending all types of drug charges, from cocaine trafficking to prescription fraud to possession and more. We are here for you and begin every case with a free consultation to learn about your situation and help you understand the type of consequences you could face. We fight with you to secure the best possible outcome for your case, whether reduced, deferred, or dismissed charges. 

With the knowledge and experience of a former prosecutor and years of legal experience, our drug defense expertise is second to none. Contact us at Scharff Law today and find out how we can help you.


  1. How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System? (Blood, Urine & Saliva)
  2. Substance Use During Pregnancy 
  3. Court Rules in Drug Test Case – Carolina Journal