A Driver Charged with DWI is One Thing. Being Accused of Drug DUI is Another Altogether

For anyone who has not been through the ordeal of a DWI arrest and court case, please understand that it is often not only a potentially costly exercise, but can sometimes be an embarrassing event in one’s life. For most people in the Garden State, driving while intoxicated is something that they would never think of consciously doing, but many people would be surprised how easy it truly is to find oneself pulled over on the side of the road and accused of DWI.

When it comes to proving alcohol-related DUI, the state typically relies upon breathalyzer readings (or sometimes a direct blood test) to establish a blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC. If the results are shown to be above the legal limit of 0.08 percent BAC, the prosecution will feel that it has a relatively strong case against a motorist. As New Jersey drunk driving specialists, my skilled team of DWI defense attorneys has the experience to fight DWI charges even when the evidence appears to be unassailable.

Breathalyzer tests are generally conducted by the police following an arrest for suspected drunk driving, during which certain procedures must be followed for the BAC results to be valid in a court of law. As one might expect, to be accepted in court, this key piece of evidence must meet a number of standards by law. If the manner of collection of the BAC results deviates from the related standards, or if there is a potential weakness in any of this important proof, an experienced DWI-DUI lawyer can call into question its validity.

The difference between alcohol-related charges and those involving doctor-prescribed medications, or even illegal substances, is that the BAC evidence for a drunken driving case is usually more clearly defined and easily quantified by police. Although many opponents of breathalyzer testing have mounted campaigns to have the results from these breath-testing machines made invalid as evidence, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled the Alcotest device reliable.

Relatively speaking, impairment in cases of drug DUI is often more difficult to establish and requires observation and assessment of an accused drug-impaired driver by a certified drug recognition evaluator (DRE). As opposed to the simpler administering of a breathalyzer test by a police officer, patrolmen and other individuals who evaluate drivers for drug DUI must be trained to recognize a drug-impaired driver by observation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in concert with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has already established approved DRE training, which includes a curriculum and protocols that must be followed. Through proper training, it is believed by law enforcement and other traffic safety advocates that the 12-step evaluation process employed by DREs can be used to determine if a driver is impaired or under the influence of a drug or drugs.

Many DUI defense attorneys and opponents of this type of drug evaluation feel that the science that backs up the DRE process is questionable, if not altogether flawed. In fact, it has been said that ultimately, the establishment of person’s state of impairment by drugs falls on the DRE’s subjective opinion. Because of this, motorists accused of drug DUI or other charges related to impaired motor vehicle operation caused by prescription drugs or other controlled dangerous substances (CDSs) may have an opportunity to challenge those charges in court and perhaps have them dismissed.

As professional drunk driving defense lawyers, my colleagues understand the potential dangers that exists when relying on subjective analysis of a driver’s state of intoxication by a law enforcement official. Those who question the validity of DREs’ ability to observe and rate a driver’s level of impairment often point to the fact that everyone, even a police officer, is susceptible to ever-present human error. If the officer is tired, preoccupied or otherwise distracted, the DRE may arrive at a mistaken conclusion.

Because of the very subjective nature of DRE evidence, we highly recommend any driver who is charged with drug DUI in New Jersey based on a DRE evaluation to contact a qualified New Jersey DWI-DUI attorney. My legal team’s knowledge of field sobriety tests, DRE and breathalyzer testing, as well as its collective trial experience goes a long way to helping those accused of drug and alcohol DUI violations.