All You Need to Know About Drug Recognition From “Experts”
Posted by Scott Gorman - August 17, 2018

When you get pulled over for driving while impaired by marijuana or other drugs (DWID) in New Jersey, you will typically be introduced to a Drug Recognition Expert. Despite a number of inherent flaws in the ways in which these “experts” assess drivers’ drug-related impairment, their conclusions can carry substantial weight in subsequent criminal proceedings.

If you are facing charges for a marijuana DWI or other DWID in New Jersey, it is important to understand the role that the Drug Recognition Expert who tested you will play in your case. Here are some answers to frequently-asked questions from Hackensack DWI attorney Scott Gorman:

Q: What is a Drug Recognition Expert?

A Drug Recognition Expert, or Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE), is a police officer who has received training that is intended to enable him or her to detect when a driver has experienced drug-related impairment. Typically, DREs administer a series of tests in a controlled environment, such as a police station, in order to assess whether a person’s driving capabilities have been impaired by marijuana or other drugs.

Q: How accurate are these tests?

The training that DREs receive is supposed to help them arrive at a conclusion as to whether a person is under the influence of a drug, and, if so, what class of drug they have consumed. But, there is no authoritative case from New Jersey to establish that this is a “scientific” method of determining drug impairment. As a result, from a legal perspective, these tests are not recognized as accurate means of determining if a person has been driving under the influence of drugs.

Q: Will a DRE’s testimony hold up in court?

It is difficult to predict whether the reliability of the DRE protocol would pass judicial scrutiny in New Jersey, but there is certainly a strong argument to be made that it should not. As part of their examinations, DREs administer an eye examination known as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. The HGN test involves moving a stimulus in front of the eyes in a manner designed to detect nystagmus – a rapid jerking of the eyes. New Jersey courts have not found the HGN test to be a reliable tool even to predict alcohol impairment, much less drug impairment.

Given that the HGN test has not been found to be reliable, it should come as no surprise that there is no reported appellate opinion from a New Jersey court stating that the DRE protocol is reliable – even though officers are trained to perform the HGN test in a standardized way. In the words of another state’s highest court, even if police officers underwent extensive training on how to use a Ouija Board, it wouldn’t make the Ouija Board reliable. That court also noted that that the reliability of the HGN test has not yet been proven, and that as a result, the HGN test is no more reliable than a Ouija Board or a Magic 8 Ball. The same could be said for the DRE protocol in New Jersey.

Are You Facing a Marijuana DWI or DWID Charge in Essex County or Morristown New Jersey?

If you were charged with a marijuana DWI or other DWID following a DRE examination in New Jersey, defense attorney Scott Gorman can protect you. To learn more about the defense strategies you have available, call 201-489-9199 or request a free consultation online now. We have offices in Hackensack and Morristown.

Published in Categories: DUI / DWI