Rosa Sanchez has worked for Humboldt County for 40 years. In addition to her work as judicial assistant and drug court coordinator, she wears another perhaps lesser-known hat - lab manager.

Humboldt County Drug and DUI courts have their own drug testing lab. Sanchez explained conducting their own drug testing came about in an effort to help drug and DUI court clients stay clean with the additional motivation of knowing they had to pass truly random drug tests.

"We were having the drug and DUI court clients tested at Humboldt General Hospital on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and none of the drug tests were positive," Sanchez said.

She and the judges didn't believe those negative tests were all the result of clean living but the result of some clients learning how to beat the system by timing their drug use so they'd show clean on test day - easier to do when the tests were only run on three days.

When the decision was made eight years ago to start a drug testing lab at the courthouse, Sanchez took on that responsibility much the way she's taken on other new job responsibilities over the years. She went to Delaware for training and got certified as a lab tech.

In the early days, the testing materials were kept in a closet near her office. The original lab equipment could only test 25 samples at a time.

"Sometimes I was at the office until eight (p.m.) doing drug testing," said Sanchez.

Things are better now. New equipment allows testing of 50 samples at a time in a courthouse basement room.

Drug court and DUI court clients now know they can be called anytime - seven days a week to give a sample for testing. Clients don't know beforehand what day they'll have to test; Sanchez says sometimes they think they have the system figured out but they don't. They test three to five times a week.

Drug court clients pay $35 a week for testing and counseling. The $35 doesn't cover the full cost of testing, but Sanchez says, "We have to try and keep it reasonable."

Sanchez doesn't collect the samples; that's done at Vision Quest.

She notes Humboldt County drug court can test for any drug, even "pep spice" a combination of potpourri that's smoked.

DUI court clients submit to tougher tests these days too; testing for levels of two elements in the blood can determine even amounts of alcohol too small to show up in a blood alcohol test. A creatinine test can determine whether a client may have tried to drink an unusual level of liquid to dilute alcohol in an attempt to beat a test.

Sanchez mentioned irritably some clients try to cheat on testing by purchasing different methods sold to defeat drug tests.

"It really makes me mad that it's legal to sell things like that," she said. Clients caught cheating can be sentenced to 90 days in jail or be thrown out of the program.

Clients who fail a test face sanctions including jail time. Fail enough tests and they get thrown out of the program and felony charges are reinstated. But Sanchez says for those who take advantage of the counseling and testing support offered through drug court to get off drugs get more than just a chance to beat a felony. They get their lives back.