The Problem with Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Lab Testing

  • DWI

Television shows and Hollywood movies promote the idea that “science” is a foolproof way to solve crimes. That is a myth. And if you’re charged with drug-related DWI in New Jersey, you will need a Toms River DWI lawyer who is a mythbuster – attorney Steven W. Hernandez.

The most frequently charged crime in New Jersey is driving while intoxicated (DWI), but is the science related to DWI law reliable? Only several decades ago, if a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level was 0.15 percent or higher, that person was too impaired to drive.

But in 2022, if a driver’s BAC level is 0.08 percent or above, that motorist is considered too impaired to drive. The science didn’t change. The laws did. The real truth is that it is genuinely impossible to gauge someone’s level of intoxication precisely and reliably.

Another example: Breathalyzers are notoriously unreliable devices for measuring a driver’s level of intoxication, but breathalyzer exam findings are still routinely used in cases against drivers who are facing DWI charges in New Jersey criminal courts.

Why Is Lab Testing a Problem?

A major problem in drug-related DWI cases is the forensic labs that handle toxicology tests and forensic evidence. If a lab technician doesn’t follow established laboratory procedures, a defendant in a drug-related DWI case may end up wrongly convicted.

Negligence is a problem at some forensic labs, but the bigger problem may be ethical. Some labs are paid only for results that deliver criminal convictions. It doesn’t take an ethics professor – or a defense lawyer – to see the ethical conflict when forensic labs are only paid for convictions.

Laboratory equipment should also be considered in a drug-related driving while intoxicated case. Too often, laboratory equipment is faulty, defective, or improperly maintained. Inaccurate findings are the inevitable consequence of using sub-par laboratory equipment.

In the past, technicians, police officers, and even prosecuting attorneys have manipulated or tampered with forensic evidence to win convictions. To catch a laboratory’s mistakes and cast doubt on the state’s case in a DWI trial, it takes a vigilant and skilled New Jersey DWI lawyer.

Are Drug Recognition Experts Reliable Witnesses?

In New Jersey, about 400 police officers are Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) certified by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. They receive 72 hours of classroom training and 40 to 60 hours of training in the field. They are not scientists or toxicologists.

Drug Recognition Experts examine drivers who are suspected of drug-related DWI by using a 12-step evaluation process. This process may involve taking breath, urine, or blood samples and having a suspect submit to other tests and examinations.

However, a DRE’s opinion is only a personal opinion. They’re not doctors or chemists. If a DRE has an innocent driver take these various tests, and the driver submits because he or she is innocent, a forensic lab’s mistake could result in an innocent person’s criminal DWI conviction.

DWI cases received by forensic crime labs from Drug Recognition Experts generally require significantly more testing than non-DRE cases – and that means more opportunities for negligence, contamination, and corruption.

What Should You Do If You Are Charged With Drug-Related DWI?

Do not allow yourself to be convicted of DWI on the basis of one person’s opinion or on the basis of erroneous forensic lab results. If you are charged with drug-related DWI in New Jersey, contact Toms River DWI lawyer Steven W. Hernandez as quickly as possible.

Overcoming the bias in favor of science and experts requires a DWI lawyer who knows how to cast doubt on dubious scientific evidence. Your lawyer should make it clear to the judge, jury, and prosecutor that labs make mistakes and that a DRE’s opinions are personal and not scientific.

Let Attorney Steven W. Hernandez Represent You

Attorney Steven W. Hernandez has completed Drug Recognition Expert overview training with more than 120 hours of forensic science related to blood and urine analysis. No one can refute the testimony of a Drug Recognition Expert as effectively as another Drug Recognition Expert.

Steven W. Hernandez is also a New Jersey DWI lawyer, a criminal defense attorney, and a trainer, teacher, and sought-after public speaker. He is a Board-Certified DUI Attorney certified by the National College for DUI Defense.

He is also a field sobriety test instructor and a certified operator of the Alcotest 7110 breathalyzer device. In fact, few attorneys in New Jersey are as qualified to defend you against a drug-related DWI charge as attorney Steven W. Hernandez.

Learn more about how the Hernandez Law Firm helps DWI defendants – or retain the legal help you need to fight a DWI charge – by calling (732) 286-2700. Your first legal consultation with the Hernandez Law Firm is offered with no cost or obligation.

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Steven W. Hernandez, Board-Certified DUI Attorney