Key Contributions of Drug Recognition Experts in DUI Cases

March 19, 2024

Potential Defenses Against DRE Testimony And the Necessity for Legal Counsel in DUI Cases in New Jersey

Key Contributions of Drug Recognition Experts in DUI Cases in Red Bank NJIf you’ve ever been pulled over while under the influence of drugs, then you understand the intense anxiety and stress that overcomes a driver in that moment. At this moment, many questions may rush through your mind, including whether or not to submit to field sobriety tests and if you have the right to decline. However, whatever degree of control you may desire to exercise over the evidence in your case, your decision to cooperate or not may have little weight on the evidence available against you if a drug recognition expert (DRE) gets involved in the case.

Profiling a NJ Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)

A drug recognition expert (DRE) is a law enforcement officer who is specially trained at recognizing the signs of drug influence with expert precision. As the proliferation of illicit drug use has increased substantially over the last several decades, law enforcement agencies have had to devote significant training and resources toward detection. Most standard field sobriety tests administered by law enforcement officers seek to identify alcohol impairment, but DREs focus on detecting the use of narcotics and other drugs, which can require a more trained eye.

These drugs may include cannabis, hallucinogens, stimulants, depressants, and narcotic analgesics. Some of the more specific drug names that fall in these categories include cocaine, opioids like oxycodone, heroin, or other prescription painkillers, marijuana, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax, LSD, or inhalants like solvents or nitrous oxide.

The 12-Step Protocol Followed by Drug Recognition Experts

A DRE follows a 12-step protocol for identifying signs of drug influence. These examinations usually take place at a law enforcement station or testing facility. The protocol was established by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and begins with an alcohol breath test. Then, the DRE will conduct an interview of the apprehended individual and conduct their first preliminary examination. During this examination, the DRE will observe the subject and ask them questions about any recent drug or alcohol use, medical history, or current medical conditions. They will observe the subject for any visible signs of drug influence like pupil dilation, sweating, poor balance or posture, or unusual behavior.

Following this preliminary examination, if the DRE believes that further evaluation is necessary, they will administer an eye exam, known as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN),  to check for signs of drug use. Through the HGN exam, the officer looks for signs of jerking eye movements that indicate drug impairment. Additional exams that a DRE may administer during the 12-step protocol include divided attention psychophysical tests, vital signs and second pulse, dark room examinations, muscle tone exam, checking for injections sites on the arm or other parts of the body, checking for third pulse, and a toxicology examination.

Prosecutors Often Rely on DRE Testimony in New Jersey DUI Cases

In New Jersey, prosecutors rely heavily on the testimony of DRE experts in conjunction with any physical evidence available like toxicology reports. As such, the involvement of a DRE in your DUI case can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case, as their testimony can often serve as a cornerstone of the prosecution’s case against you. Not only does the reputation of DREs, based on their extensive training and experience, hold a lot of weight in court, but the reliability of the tests and protocol they follow renders the evidence credible and reliable. Of course, it may be possible to cast doubt on the credibility or reliability of their findings, which is exactly what an experienced criminal defense attorney will try to do.

Defense Approaches to Effectively Challenge DRE Findings

If you are confronted with a DRE report and testimony following a DUI incident, it’s time to call a skilled DUI defense lawyer. One potential defense, depending on the facts of your case, may be to challenge the accuracy and reliability of the DRE’s findings based on errors or inconsistencies made during the evaluation process. You may also raise questions as to the DRE’s credentials, qualifications, or competence.

There could also be another reasonable explanation for the DRE’s observations, and toxicology reports could reveal an alternative explanation. For example, perhaps who were not under the influence of drugs but rather you were extremely sleep deprived or you can demonstrate that the lack of balance and slurred speech the DRE observed can be explained through an interaction of two lawfully prescribed pharmaceutical drugs.

Stay Informed About the Approaches Employed by Drug Recognition Experts in DUI Cases in Monmouth County, New Jersey.Finally, and sometimes most effectively, you may be able to exclude evidence or testimony from the court record if it was obtained pursuant to an illegal stop or a stop that violated your Constitutional rights. Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have a right against unreasonable search and seizure. In order to pull you over in a motor vehicle stop, a police officer must have probable cause to believe that you have violated a law or traffic ordinance. If they lack probable cause to pull you over, then any evidence they obtain of a crime as a result of the stop is inadmissible as evidence.

Contact our Jersey Shore Defense Lawyers to Contest Evidence from a Drug Recognition Expert in Your DUI Case

You have a legal right to be represented by counsel and you have a legal right to have your lawyer present whenever you answer questions. Understanding your rights and potential defenses when faced with a DUI charge is critical. An experienced DUI attorney at Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh will closely examine any DRE report and supporting evidence to determine what defenses are appropriate to raise in your case. For a consultation regarding your DUI case in Long Branch, Colts Neck, Red Bank, Middletown, Asbury Park, Wall, Lavallette, or another town in Southern New Jersey, please contact us right away at 732-440-3950.

Categorised in: Criminal Defense