New Jersey’s Supreme Court has declared the testimony of drug recognition experts reliable enough to be used as evidence, though they limited its use over concerns about such experts’ processes.
Wednesday’s decision is a partial defeat for the state Office of the Public Defender, which argued the case, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which was among several groups that filed supporting briefs. It comes three months after a court-appointed special master found such testimony was reliable enough to act as evidence.
“Although we believe evidence regarding the DRE protocol should never be admissible at trial, the Court today took important steps to show its commitment to sound science, to stop the prosecution from proving its case through shortcuts and the overuse of police officers in place of empirical evidence to sustain criminal convictions, and to make clear to all courts, prosecutors, defendants, and the public that it will maintain the integrity of criminal prosecutions.” said Assistant Deputy Public Defender Molly Mclane.
Drug recognition experts are trained to determine whether drivers are impaired by drugs that can’t be detected by roadside tests, bloodwork, or breathalyzers.
The justices split on their reliability, with two issuing a dissent in the Morris County case that dates back to 2015, when Michael Olenowski was charged with driving while intoxicated on two separate occasions.
State authorities celebrated the ruling, charging it would lead to safer roadways.