Metabolitesare Defined as Molecules from a Scheduled Controlled Drug
Interviewer: How would you define metabolites?
James Abate: Metabolite is a scientific term which basically means molecules from a scheduled controlled drug. It can be a prescription drug, it can be cocaine, it could be heroin, it could be anything. In fact, I’ve had clients who were heroin users who weren’t taking heroin that day but the metabolites from 20 days earlier is still in their system. The DRE says that they exhibited signs of intoxication or impairment masking what you’d expect to find from heroin, and that’s all they need to prove.
Ambien Often Causes People to Go to Sleep while Driving
Interviewer: When it comes to prescription medications, have you seen things like Ambien and things of that nature as well?
James Abate: Ambien is a whole another game. With Ambien, what ends up happening is, we’ve run into a number of cases where people go to sleep, they wake up, and they’re in their car somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and they are arrested for driving while intoxicated. What that brings up is the issue of involuntary driving. There have been successful defenses in Ambien cases where attorneys have proven, through medical experts that the person did not intend to drive their vehicle. They were basically sleep-driving.
Under New Jersey Law, in order to prove operation they have to show that you had an intention to drive. If this was something involuntary, getting behind the wheel of a car like you are in a dream, then the state cannot prove their case.
In New Jersey A Lay Person Can Testify that Someone is Impaired by Marijuana
Interviewer: How does the DRE handle marijuana usage? What are they trained in? What are the things that they’re going to be looking out for?
James Abate: With a marijuana case they don’t actually need a DRE. That’s the one drug. There’s a case called State v. Beaulor, which says that a layman, a lay person can testify that someone is impaired by marijuana. In that case, the officer, any officer, is qualified to give that assessment. They’re most likely looking for the same things that they’re looking for in the field-sobriety test, but they really can’t admit the field-sobriety test because they’re not designed to detect marijuana usage.
If It is the Police Officer’s Opinion that a Driver is Impaired by Marijuana Usage, then the Officer has Enough to Get a Conviction
They just testify that, yes, based on my experience of dealing with people who are marijuana users, that this person was impaired by marijuana and then they take a blood test or a urine test, and if the metabolites of marijuana are in the system, then they can charge that person as being driving while impaired. It could be that that person was not impaired by marijuana. That’s just the officer’s opinion that he was, and if they’ve smoked within the last thirty days or so, the metabolites are going to show in their bodily fluids, and the officer’s going to have what he needs to convict.
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