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Difficult Aspects of Defending a Drug Related DUI from an Attorney’s Perspective


Interviewer: What would you say is the most difficult aspect of dealing with a DUI case that involves drugs, from the attorney’s perspective, what’s the most difficult aspect for you to deal with?

James Abate: The most difficult aspect is that there is no set standard for the DRE program. There is no set standard for what evidence the police have to put forward, and it’s very possible for the police to convict someone who was not, in fact, impaired, based on them just having to give their opinion that someone’s intoxicated, and also based on there being metabolites in your bloodstream, and they could be old. You can very easily have someone who is not impaired on drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol, and have them convicted of committing that offense.

Typical Defendant in a Drug Related DUI Scenario

Interviewer: Is there a typical client when it comes to drug-related DUIs? Is there a standard client that you’re dealing with, or is it diversified among people?

James Abate: It really doesn’t amount to class, race, financial. This is something which can happen to anyone. You can be dealing with school teachers who are taking some sort of medication to deal with depression, and have a little alcohol with it, and they’re found to be driving while impaired. At the same time, I’ve come across young kids smoking marijuana, professionals who in the same circumstance could be another substance. Anybody who takes medication becomes a target of this. I guess it would be anybody who takes medication, that’s pretty much everyone.

Notable Case Studies of Drug Related DUI Cases in New Jersey

Interviewer: Are there any particular cases that you can share with us in regards to a drug-related DUI? Just give us an example of a common scenario of what happened with that client, what was that particular case like.

James Abate: I had a case is Westfield, New Jersey, where the defendant was taking medication, she was also drinking. Her blood alcohol level was below the threshold for a DWI, they tested her urine, and they found that she had metabolites for the prescriptions that were in her purse, and the officer wanted to testify that she was intoxicated. We were able to determine that the officer was not a DRE. We didn’t even have to deal with suppressing the DRE testimony.

There was no DRE, and we were able to get that case completely dismissed on that ground, which was fortunate because prior to the end of that case, she had the same thing happen to her in another town, and the fact that getting one of the cases dismissed really kept her from losing her life, pretty much. She did go into drug rehab to get off of the prescription medication she was taking, and she’s living a very productive life now.

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