Potential Defenses for Driving on Drugs

Getting a DUI

Virtually everyone has heard of a breathalyzer test. Blow into a breathalyzer device, the device gives a numerical reading telling you or a police officer your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), and if you are below the legal limit of .08, you can usually go on your way. But what if police suspect that you’ve been driving under the influence of drugs, not alcohol? There’s no breathalyzer for marijuana, nor for heroin, Xanaxcocaine, or meth for that matter. How can the police prove a DUI case against you if there’s no roadside chemical test to identify whether you’ve been using drugs before or while driving? There is a distinct type of DUI case involving driving under the influence of drugs and specific ways that police officers and prosecutors build these cases. Here are some of the top ways that the state can prove a drug DUI charge and what a strategic New Jersey DUI lawyer can do to challenge the case against you. Contact our experienced DUI defense attorneys serving all of Ocean County and Jersey Shore areas if you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. We can explain and discuss the defense options that may apply to your individual case, whether it is in Ocean Township, Seaside Heights, Toms River, Berkeley Township, Point Pleasant, Manchester, or elsewhere in New Jersey. Simply call (848) 238-2100 now for a free consultation.

How Can They Prove I Was Driving Under the Influence of Drugs?

New Jersey police are trained to identify a number of signs that you may be driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. Poor balance, slurred speech, heavy sweating, observations of bad driving such as speeding, weaving, leaving a blinker on too long, failing to signal, leaving your headlights off at night, getting into a collision, poor performance on roadside field sobriety tests, or any other numbers of clues can all arouse suspicion that you may be driving while intoxicated. However, if an officer administers breathalyzer test and you blow below .08 or even have no alcohol in your system, they may suspect you of driving on drugs. In a drug DUI case, the person can by under the influence of any controlled dangerous substance that impairs their ability to operate a vehicle safely.

At this point, normal patrol or traffic officers are trained to request the assistance of a specially trained Drug Recognition Expert officer (DRE). A Drug Recognition Expert is an officer trained to identify whether you have taken a drug that is still in your system. They receive standardized training to help them identify the effects and symptoms of associated with various drug families, including central nervous system stimulants like meth, depressants like benzodiazepines, hallucinogens like LSD, inhalants like nitrous oxide, and others. They will often conduct an even more detailed set of field sobriety and other tests, including measuring your pulse, pupil size, and taking other vital measurements.

After all of this, a DRE will give an expert opinion as to whether you are under the influence of drugs, such that you are unable to drive as safely as a sober person. They will write down this information in an expert DRE report and may be asked to testify in court. Prosecutors may call a Drug Recognition Experts (DRE), along with the first officer or officers who stopped you at the side of the road, to testify that you were driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

The testimony of these officers will generally also be supported by any drugs they found in your car or on your person. On top of that, any admissions that you made will likely be used against you, meaning that you admitted to the officers that you were taking drugs recently or even have a prescription for a controlled dangerous substance like Xanax or Oxycontin. You would be surprised how often people will simply admit to smoking marijuana or taking other drugs when they are stopped on the side of the road. In addition, officers may also ask you to submit to a chemical test (normally a blood test), to identify if you were taking drugs. This evidence may all be used, depending on the circumstances of your drug DUI case.

Charged With Drug DUI, What Are My Defense Options?

Despite the common types of evidence in drug DUI cases, there are a number of ways to challenge these charges in New Jersey. First, there are few established ways to test for the immediate presence of drugs, unlike alcohol’s clear .08 BAC limits and breath tests. Generally, chemical blood tests will only provide a range for how long ago you took the drug. Different components or markers of drug use will remain in your blood for different periods of time and sometimes a blood test will pick up “inactive” components of a drug that would not necessarily render you too impaired to drive. Your attorney and potentially a defense expert can thus dispute the weight that the judge should give the blood test evidence in your case.

Without video recorded evidence of you falling down on field sobriety tests or dash cam footage of your driving badly, it can be difficult for prosecutors to establish how much of a particular drug you took if the substance is not entirely illegal. For example, you may have a prescription for anti-anxiety medication or painkillers that you are legally allowed to take in certain doses. You lawyer can also potentially put forward alternative explanations for why you performed poorly on field sobriety tests; for example, you could have been fatigued, you may have physical disabilities, you were injured, etc. There are ways to successfully challenge the testimony of Drug Recognition Expert as well. DRE’s are primarily trained to identify which category of drugs you took ,but they have less scientific expertise in whether you’ve taken too much of a prescription drug and ultimately, their opinion is that of one person.

Need Defense for a DUI with Drugs in Toms River, Who Can Help?

If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs, there may be ways to successfully obtain a dismissal in your case. It is advisable to have a well-qualified DUI defense lawyer examine the discovery evidence in your case and determine potential defenses that are applicable. Our lawyers have handled thousands of drug DUI charges for clients accused of driving on controlled dangerous substances in Ocean Twp., Manchester, Berkeley Twp., Seaside Heights, Brick Twp., Lavallette, Point Pleasant, and other municipalities in Ocean County NJ. Contact us at (848) 238-2100 to find out how we can help you.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.