Drug Recognition Experts in New Jersey

You’re in New Jersey and you’ve just been charged with a DUI. You’ve passed the breath test, but failed the tests given by a DRE (drug recognition expert) and wondering if the defense has a leg to stand on. Let’s take a look at exactly what a drug recognition expert is…


What A Drug Expert Does

A drug recognition expert is an officer who has been extensively trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of a person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including the ability to decipher which drug(s) they are on and whether their impairment is such that it adversely affects their driving. DRE’s claim the ability to decipher these signs and symptoms through a visual and limited physical evaluation.

Creating a Link Between a DRE and Toxicology

In the State of New Jersey, the testimony from a DRE alone is usually not enough to satisfy a DUI conviction; however, the testimony from a DRE certainly aids the prosecution in their quest for a conviction. Because a good DUI lawyer can argue the discrepancies in breath, blood and urine tests, these toxicology results may not be sufficient enough to stand alone; however, coupled with the testimony from a drug recognition expert, the prosecutor may be able to exhibit a link between the toxicology report and the DUI charge and strengthen their case.

As part of their visual examination, the DRE reviews five areas:

• Coordination (e.g., walk-and-turn test, finger-to-nose test, Romberg’s balance test, etc.)
• Eyes (e.g., horizontal gaze nystagmus, vertical nystagmus, PERRLA, etc.)
• Vital signs (pulse, temp, blood pressure)
• Muscle tone (checks to feel if arm muscles are tense, loose or rubbery)
• Visual inspection (signs of drug ingestion or injection)

At the end of the DRE’s examination, he will determine whether the suspect’s results match symptoms associated with any one or more of the seven drug classes. The drug classes include CNS (central nervous system) stimulants, CNS depressants, phencyclidine, hallucinogens, inhalants, narcotic analgesics, and cannabis. The thorough training of the drug recognition expert will allow them to arrive at a conclusion of whether the suspect is impaired or not and if so, which class of drug is likely the cause of the impairment.

Fighting the Charges

This makes fighting a DUI based on drugs in New Jersey difficult to prosecute with the right defense.