NJ DUI/DWI and Drug Recognition Experts (DRE)
- April 11, 2012
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A drug recognition expert (DRE) is an officer who been certified to determine, by observation, whether an individual is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This officer is susceptible to error, as we all are. The officer may be distracted, tired, have personal issues weighing on his or her mind or any other of a number of factors which may contribute to an erroneous finding of under the influence. If you are convicted for DUI/DWI in New Jersey based on the report of a DRE there may be many challenges available to have the charges against you dismissed. Immediately seek an experienced lawyer to represent you.
What a DRE does:
The DRE evaluates the persons appearance and behavior, measures vital signs and automatic responses to certain stimulus; evaluates the person’s judgment through the use of certain specific psychological tests.
A DRE makes 3 determinations, typically post-arrest at the police station:
1. Is the person impaired? If so, are they able to operate a vehicle safely? If not;
2. Is the impairment due to injury or illness or is it drug-related? If it is drug related;
3. What type, or combination, of drugs caused the impairment?
There is a 12-Step DRE protocol to be followed in making assessments about the accused:
1. Administration of the Alcotest. Typically by the arresting officer, before contacting the DRE, to determine whether alcohol caused the impairment.
2. Interview by the DRE of the arresting officer to obtain background information. This is now second-hand information being used to evaluate a serious matter.
3. Preliminary Examination including taking the accused’s pulse and an interview of accused as to existing injuries or other conditions which may alter results as well as inquiry into other recent events. The DRE is constantly observing the accused at this time for signs of drug use. A subject who is nervous or tired can certainly be mistaken for under the influence.
4. Eye Examination to determine eye movement patterns as compared to an individual not under the influence.
5. Divided Attention to Physical Tests including a balance tests, walk and turn test, one leg stand and finger to nose. In addition to the tests themselves, there is an instructional component similar to a “Simon Says” game played by children where instructions are offered for you to proceed but if you proceed before “Simon Says” you are “out.”
6. Vital Signs and Secondary Pulse tests include blood pressure, temperature and pulse. These may all be affected by stress nervousness, diet and prescribed or over-the-counter medication.
7. Dark Room Examination measures the pupils under different lighting conditions and examines the nostrils for signs of drug ingestion.
8. Examination of Muscle Tone for rigidity or flaccidity. These may be affected by something as simple as stress, recent illness or a recent workout.
9. Check for Injection Sites and 3rd Pulse. If you are nervous or stressed about being accused, recently had a flu shot, blood test or gave blood a positive finding may result where none exists.
10. Subject’s Statements and Other Observations are considered following a reading of the Miranda warnings if not previously read. The officer typically asks a series of questions regarding drug use which a nervous suspect may answer without thinking and offer what sounds like a confession to the current incident when referring to past drug use.
11. Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator in which the DRE will indicate the categories of drugs possibly causing the variations from “normal” physiology observed by the officer during the test. This calls for heavy reliance on training and experience which is as subjective as this entire procedure.
12. Toxicological Examination in which urine, blood and/or saliva are taken from the accused and sent to a lab for testing.
If the primary evidence against you in a DUI/DWI matter is officer observation you should take advantage of the many opportunities available to challenge the finding. Hire an experienced attorney immediately and to begin going over your case.
For more information on DUI/DWI, drugs in a motor vehicle or other criminal matters in NJ, visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com.