Police May Qualify as Experts in DWI u/i Marijuana Cases -State v. Bealor

Today’s decision in State v. Bealor by the New Jersey Supreme Court clarifies the extent to which expert testimony is required to prove a driving while under the influence of marijuana case.

The Justices ruled that expert testimony is the preferred method of proving these cases. However, the Court implied that municipal prosecutors routinely may be able to qualify lay police officers as experts in detecting the symptoms of a person who is under the influence of marijuana based upon their basic training and experience as law enforcement officers. (Although not cited by the Court, this has long been part of New Jersey law – see generally State v. Jackson, 124 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 1973)).

The Court also ruled that the fact of intoxication and the cause of that intoxication need not be proven by expert testimony. Rather, the fact-finder may view all the direct and circumstantial evidence, including the defendant’s conduct and the results of scientific tests performed upon blood or urine samples taken from the body of the defendant in deciding whether the defendant operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.

Download a copy of State v. Bealor.

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