Why I Need a “DWI Lawyer” for DUI Drug Cases

Many people are surprised to learn that they can be convicted of DWI without ever taking a sip of an alcoholic beverage. This is because New Jersey’s DWI statute covers not only operation while under the influence of alcohol, it also covers impairment that is caused by drugs. What you may also find surprising is that motorists can be convicted of DWI not just for being influenced by illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin, but also for prescription medication as well.

How Driving Under the Influence of Drugs is Proven

Of course, it is not necessarily unlawful to drive your car after taking your prescribed dosage of medication. This is the case even if your prescription bottle contains a caution that care must be exercised when operating a motor vehicle after taking the medication. However, a driver can be charged with a violation of the DWI statute when there is probable cause to believe that the driver drove while under the influence of a drug. In many cases, there is no dispute that the accused drove a car nor is there a dispute that there was some type of drug in the driver’s bloodstream. The question of whether the driver is guilty of DWI often comes down to whether the prosecution can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver was “under the influence of” a particular type of drug when he or she was driving.

In an attempt to prove that a driver was under the influence of a drug or drugs, the police frequently rely upon an evaluation conducted by an officer who has received specialized training. Such an officer is known as a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE). An evaluation performed by a DRE involves observations of a subject’s eyes, vital signs, and physical coordination. For example, a DRE will administer tests to determine whether a suspect’s eyes move rapidly and uncontrollably and in a manner that would be inconsistent with what would be expected for a healthy, sober individual. The DRE also observes how the subject’s eyes react to different lighting conditions and whether the eyes can converge on an object that is close to the subject’s face.

A DRE also estimates the subject’s blood pressure and pulse rate and compares the results to “normal” ranges. The DRE protocol also calls for the evaluator to administer a series of exercises to assess the subject’s balance and coordination. When the DRE completes the various steps of the assessment, he or she will predict the class of drug or drugs, if any, under the influence of which the subject is suspected of being. Then, the subject is asked to provide a sample of blood or urine that will be sent to a laboratory to confirm the DRE’s conclusion.

A skilled Morristown DWI Lawyer will test the reliability of the DRE’s conclusion by challenging, among other things, the relevance of the DRE’s observations and the reliability of the DRE protocol in general. If you are accused of having driven while under the influence of a drug, call a Morristown DWI Lawyer at The Gorman Law Firm today.

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