Motorists in New Jersey who are charged with driving under the influence are more likely to escape punishment today than they were 10 years ago. Official records reveal that the drunk driving conviction rate in the Garden State fell from 85% in 2008 to 71% in 2018. According to reports, DUI conviction rates are falling in these cases because prosecutors are finding it more difficult to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
One of the reasons for prosecutors having trouble with DUI cases is a sharp increase in the number of drivers arrested for getting behind the wheel after smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana. Scientists can accurately link elevated blood alcohol concentrations with intoxication, but the same cannot be said for THC levels in the blood. The cannabinoid can still be detected in drug tests weeks after marijuana is consumed, and those who smoke the drug on a daily basis may be able to function with THC levels that would incapacitate a casual user.
Gathering evidence of impairment can also be difficult when motorists are accused of driving under the influence of drugs. Breath tests do not detect drugs, and urine samples only reveal that substances are present. Blood tests provide more detailed results, but the Supreme Court has ruled that police officers cannot draw blood without a search warrant or the subject’s consent. This is why blood evidence is only introduced in about 5% of the DUI cases in New Jersey.
Another challenge facing prosecutors is the introduction in recent years of sophisticated breath-testing equipment. These machines only work properly when they are maintained fastidiously and recalibrated regularly, and the police officers who operate them must undergo special training. When service or training logs reveal that breath-testing machines have been neglected or the officers using them lack necessary skills, experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to have toxicology evidence excluded and drunk driving charges dismissed.