Drug Recognition Evidence (Part 6)

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Drug Recognition EvidenceThe New Jersey Supreme Court concluded with the following in relevant part: The Court finds that special justification exists to depart from precedent and replace Frye with a Daubert-type standard in criminal cases, as have a majority of states. As in Accutane, however, the Court declines “to embrace the full body of Daubert case law as applied by state and federal courts.” 234 N.J. at 399. The Daubert factors will help guide trial courts in their role as gatekeepers. But Daubert’s non-exhaustive list of factors does not limit judges in their assessment of reliability. The focus in criminal cases, as in civil ones, belongs on the soundness of the methodology and reasoning used to validate the expert opinion or technique. The standard adopted here applies not only to testimony based on scientific knowledge but also to that based on technical or other specialized knowledge.

Nothing in today’s decision disturbs prior rulings that were based on the Frye standard. Future challenges in criminal cases that address the admissibility of new types of evidence should be assessed under the new standard outlined above. The same is true for challenges to the admissibility of evidence that has previously been sanctioned but the scientific reliability underlying the evidence has changed. The Court remands the matter for the Special Master to assess the reliability and admissibility of DRE evidence under the standard adopted in this opinion and provides guidance for the remand.

The case is remanded to the Special Master for further proceedings. Justices Patterson, Solomon, Pierre–Louis, WAINER APTER, and Fasciale and Judge Sabatino (temporarily assigned) join in Chief Justice Rabner’s opinion.

Many of the stayed cases are likely to be brought into court for a potential resolution during the next round of hearings before the Special Master. This is because individual courts are under pressure from the Administrative Office of the Courts to control their backlogs. The approach taken by municipal prosecutors in resolving these old cases is likely to vary. Overall, it should favor defendants.