Drug Recognition Evaluations – Chemical Tests
Interviewer: After the DRE evaluation, will the police ask for a chemical test, such as urine or blood?
Urine Samples are Primarily Requested in Drug-Related Cases
Kevin: That’s right. Part of the DRE evaluation includes obtaining a urine sample, not a blood sample. Sometimes, blood is taken if they have to be transported to a hospital. Typically, a urine sample is taken. What’s important to know about urine samples is that in New Jersey, the state laboratory only tests for the presence of drugs, not necessarily the amount.
In New Jersey, Urine Is Tested Only for the Presence of Drugs, Not the Amount
The presence of drugs simply indicates that the person consumed a drug, maybe hours or days or weeks before the urine sample was obtained. For example, if a person used marijuana, that marijuana may stay in his system in a non-psychoactive form for a number of days prior to giving a urine sample.
The drug component of marijuana can be stored in a person’s fat cells for weeks and gets released slowly through the body and through metabolism, and then is excreted in urine. The laboratory is only finding the presence of marijuana in the urine, and not necessarily an active component of marijuana.
That happens to be the way that the New Jersey laboratory is set up to detect marijuana. There are more effective ways to determine if somebody has the active components of marijuana in his system. Of course, blood testing is a much more effective way of finding that information out.
Also, if the laboratory bothered to set up testing properly to determine the amount of marijuana or marijuana components in a person’s blood that would give the state a major piece of evidence to show that the person is driving under the influence of drugs.
Prescription Drugs and Therapeutic Levels
Interviewer: How about for prescription drugs, though? If you don’t know the level, can’t you easily say, well, the person was taking it as advised by a doctor and they were taking the prescribed amounts at the right dosage level?
Kevin: You’re right on point with that remark, because if a person is under the care of a doctor, he or she is going to be directed to take a certain amount of medication over a certain period of time which will reach therapeutic levels in that person’s blood system.
A Therapeutic Level of a Drug in a Person’s System Is Not an Indication of Impairment
The patient who has a therapeutic level of prescription drugs in his or her system will be able to carry on in life in an absolutely normal fashion. That, of course, would include being able to drive a vehicle without being impaired in any way.
If the laboratory is looking for the presence of a prescription drug, well, of course they’re going to find that in the person’s urine. It means absolutely nothing. In addition, the prescription drug could even be found in the urine days after it was taken.
The State tries to link the finding of the prescription drug in the urine with the opinion of the drug recognition expert in order to come to this conclusion that the person is under the influence while driving (DWI).