Each year, over a million drivers are pulled over and arrested for suspicion of DWI in America. Most DWI arrests start off exactly the same: flashing police sirens and lights on the side of a road or highway. The officers will put the driver through a number of roadside field sobriety tests that include balancing on one leg, walking a line, counting or saying the alphabet.
After the roadside tests, a driver will be arrested if he does not perform satisfactorily according to the police officer’s subjective opinion. Most roadside field sobriety tests conducted by officers are designed at catching people who are driving drunk or over the legal limit. These drivers will have to provide breath samples and submit to an Alcotest machine. But what happens if the officer suspects a person is driving under the influence of drugs?
New Jersey DWI for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
In New Jersey, the DWI laws penalize more than just driving under the influence of alcohol. They also prohibit driving an automobile in NJ while under the influence of narcotics, regardless of whether it’s prescription medication or illegal narcotics, also known as controlled dangerous substances (CDS). In NJ, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of any drug that impairs your ability to drive, can lead to a DWI summons and serious consequences.
The penalties for DWI for drugs are the same as DWI for alcohol. However, the prosecutions for a DWI for drugs are much different than a DWI for alcohol in New Jersey. Driving under the influence of alcohol depends on the level of your blood alcohol level (BAC) from the Alcotest. Driving under the influence of drugs requires the prosecutor to use a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to prove someone was driving under the influence of drugs.
What is a Drug Recognition Expert?
Even if your blood alcohol content is 0.00%, you can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. When a driver is suspected of DWI for drugs, the police are required to have an officer certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to conduct an examination to evaluate whether someone is impaired by drugs. The DRE officer must be qualified to administer the tests or the results may be inadmissible in a prosecution for DWI in New Jersey. The DRE will examine a driver’s pulse, blood pressure, pupils, eye movements, balance, finger to nose, body temperature, muscle tone, and other signs of clinical and psychophysical impairment. Based solely upon these results, an officer can provide a certified Drug Recognition Expert opinion on whether a driver is under the influence of drugs.
Can a Drug Recognition Expert’s Opinion Be Challenged?
As a certified criminal trial attorney who handles New Jersey DWI cases throughout the State on a regular basis, I am qualified to handle DWI cases when the prosecutor utilizes a drug recognition expert (DRE) evaluation. I have handled countless New Jersey DWI drug cases and successfully challenged DRE examinations conducted by officers, including horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), vertical nystagmus test (VGN) and pupil size and reaction to light.
A person suspected of DWI for drugs in New Jersey may be required to submit to the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. While this test is accepted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this test is not admissible in New Jersey courts to establish guilt. Nevertheless, officers still administer the test, and prosecutors attempt to use it in court.
I can also retain my own defense Drug Recognition Expert for my client who can offer an expert opinion to challenge the officer’s examination. My expert is a retired New Jersey State Trooper who has been qualified as an expert witness in courtrooms for both alcohol and drug DWIs all over the State of New Jersey. An experienced NJ DWI attorney knows the law, court rules and can fight for you and make sure these results are not unfairly used against you in court.
As a board-certified criminal trial attorney, I handle NJ DWI drug cases on a regular basis. Please contact me now by email, by phone at 908.264.7701, or by completing the form to the right to schedule your complimentary 30-minute strategy session.