If you blow a .08 on a blood alcohol concentration test, you may be certain police will place you under arrest. A .08 percent BAC is a per se drunk driving violation, meaning you do not have to display any other signs of intoxication for the law to consider you impaired. However, for drugged driving, arriving at that conclusion is not so easy. Because of the countless prescriptions and illegal drugs and combinations of drugs that are possible in a driver's system, determining drug impairment is more complicated.
New Jersey police have adopted a special training program to assist officers in recognizing when a driver is impaired by drugs and which drugs may be the culprit. This intense evaluation includes 12 parts during which drug recognition evaluators narrow down the potential drugs a driver may have used prior to driving.
Steps a DRE takes to determine drug impairment
Even if you take an appropriate dose of a prescription drug, you may be at risk of arrest for drug-impaired driving. In order for police to charge you, however, they must determine if drugs have impaired your abilities and which drugs you have taken. This process begins by ruling out alcohol as the cause of your impairment. Police may ask you to submit to roadside sobriety tests and a breath test to measure your BAC. The DRE will take over with the following steps:
- Interviewing the arresting officer to discuss the results of roadside tests and observations the officer made at the time of your arrest
- Examining you and taking your pulse and other vital signs
- Observing the movement of your pupils and their reactions to changes in light
- Repeating field sobriety tests
- Rechecking your pulse to see if the first reading was the result of nervousness or a side effect of some drug you may have taken
- Examining your nasal cavity and throat for signs that you inhaled or ingested drugs as well as your skin for evidence of injection
- Testing the tone of your muscles, which some drugs can affect
- Taking your pulse and checking your vitals for a third time
- Drawing blood or other fluids to test for drugs in your system
At this point, the DRE may question you about your overall health and drug habits. It is critical that the officer inform you of your right to refuse to answer questions and your right to seek the representation of an attorney who can assist you in building a defense against the charges you face.