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How State Versus Olenowski Could Affect Your Drug DUI Case in NJ

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What Is a DUI Based on Drugs?

New Jersey law prohibits individuals from driving under the influence (DUI) of substances as well as alcohol. In fact, you can be arrested for a DUI for any legal or illegal drug(s) if the substance caused any kind of impairment while you operated a vehicle.

Significance of DREs for NJ DUI Charges

New Jersey police officers often call upon Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to substantiate charges for a DUI when arresting someone. DREs are police officers who are specially trained to conduct a Drug Influence Evaluation (DIE). The evaluation is intended to identify the physical signs of drug intoxication through a series of assessments, including standard field sobriety tests.

A court will typically rely on the officer’s specialized training and experience to qualify them as “expert witnesses”. However, a recent case involving DREs may change all of that.

State of New Jersey v. Olenowski

Defendant Michael Olenowski was convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. At his trial, the prosecutor introduced the method police officers used to detect drug influence as evidence, known as DRE. The trial court allowed a DRE to testify that he was showing symptoms consistent with drug impairment. This testimony likely contributed to his conviction for DUI. On appeal, the defendant argued that the DRE evidence was scientifically insufficient to be held reliable and valid.

On November 18, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of State of New Jersey v. Michael Olenowski. The ruling remanded the matter to a Special Master to determine whether DRE evidence is generally accepted in the scientific community and therefore satisfies the standard to be admitted into evidence at trial under the New Jersey Rules of Evidence.

How Can State v. Olenowski Affect Your Drug DUI Case in New Jersey?

In short, Olenowski could have a significant impact on how drug DUI cases are prosecuted throughout New Jersey. If the judicial officer determines that DRE testimony is not sufficiently enough or based in scientific evidence, prosecutors could lose one of their most effective tools for proving an individual drove under the influence of a substance. Additionally, the prosecutor could also lose the ability to provide evidence of the type of drug that a defendant is on in cases without a blood test or urine sample from the defendant.

If you have been charged with a DUI for drugs, it is critical to contact an experienced DUI/DWI attorney! To get started, contact the Law Office of Louis G. DeAngelis online or by calling (201) 227-7660 for a free consultation!