You may already be aware of the protocol used in DWI arrests for alcohol-related impairment. Meanwhile, a BAC level of over .08% isn’t the only thing that could get you in trouble. If you’re charged with driving under the influence of drugs, you are facing severe penalties.
One could say that not all drugs are created equal. After all, there’s seemingly a huge difference between street drugs and those prescribed by doctors. Some patients already have access to medical marijuana, while recreational cannabis seems to be on the horizon.
So, what does this all this mean when it comes to driving while under the influence of drugs? Just because the drugs are legal, doesn’t mean impaired driving is permitted. Like many states, New Jersey uses the Alcotest to measure blood alcohol levels. Ever wonder how evidence of drug impairment is documented?
Drug Recognition Experts
It starts with the motor vehicle stop. Take this scenario for example. You are driving on Routes 1 and 9 and swerving in and out of traffic. As luck would have it, a patrol car notices your erratic driving and pulls you over. The police can stop you if there is reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime – or for a simple traffic violation.
You’re not quite sure why the police think you’re impaired and you’re amazed when the officer confronts you. There’s no smell of alcohol on your breath – but you are nonetheless required to go through field sobriety tests. You also agree to blow into what you know as the breathalyzer. And, of course – you come back with a zero percent reading.
However, the patrol officers are insistent. They ask you questions about drug use. Perhaps you did smoke pot a few days ago – but you know you were not high at the time of the motor vehicle stop. At that point, you elect not to even mention you have a medical marijuana card.
As the process continues, you find yourself carted off to headquarters and meeting with another law enforcement official. Later, you find out that this individual is a drug recognition expert. But, what does that mean exactly?
A drug recognition expert or DRE is an officer with special training who follows a twelve step protocol to determine why a driver appears to be impaired. Part of the process involves standard tests like taking your blood pressure. Observation is key. Ultimately, the DRE offers an educated opinion on whether or not drugs is the issue – and also pinpoints the type of drug used.
As part of the testing, impaired drivers are directed to submit urine samples to ascertain drug use. Here’s something you should know however. Urinalysis simply determines evidence that a drug was used – it is not quantitative. Therefore, even though you smoked weed a few days ago, you are potentially faced with the negative impact of the test results.
In the meantime, some other states take a different approach to measuring drug levels. According to one news source, Colorado, Nevada and Pennsylvania review test results in terms of THC levels. No news if New Jersey will update methodology once cannabis is legalized.
Charged with Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs?
Contact the Law Offices of Lawrence M. Centanni if you are facing charges for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As a former assistant municipal prosecutor, Attorney Centanni has experience in both sides of these types of cases. We are here to help you!