DiLorenzo & Rush | Counselors of Law
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Recent court decision addresses DUI tests for drugs

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2024 | Criminal Defense

People who are accused of driving under the influence of alcohol generally understand how law enforcement testing procedures work. A chemical breath test, roadside sobriety tests and blood tests can be used. In addition, the law enforcement officer has some leeway to assess the driver’s appearance and behavior as the investigation proceeds.

However, when the allegations are related to driving under the influence of drugs, there are no real-time tests that can be conducted during the traffic stop to check if there are drugs in the driver’s system. With a breathalyzer test, the driver blows into the machine and it registers their blood alcohol content. With drugs, it is more complicated. The issue was addressed toward the end of 2023 by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Drug recognition experts can now provide evidence

According to the court, drug recognition expert testimony can be admitted into evidence with limitations. Because the drug recognition expert (DRE) bases the determination on experience, training and certain signs, it is not scientifically guaranteed to be accurate. DRE training has been questioned in court cases as to its validity with opinions coming down on both sides.

Based on the State Supreme Court decision, the court did not limit DRE admissibility to instances where there was a toxicology report. It did say that the DRE testimony would be excluded in the absence of such a report. People who refuse to submit to blood, urine or breath tests will have a DRE assessment admitted in their case.

DRE tests can be challenged as part of a defense

For defense attorneys, it is important to note that they have an avenue to combat the testimony by questioning how valid it can be due to its subjectivity. Also, a person charged with DUI cannot be deemed guilty based solely on DRE testimony. It is noteworthy that there are no tests to determine how reliable DRE testimony is.

With new ways in which people are subjected to an arrest for being under the influence, it is imperative to have an idea of what strategies can be used to gain an acquittal or reduce the charges. This is a fundamental part of an effective criminal defense.