Not Guilty Verdict in Ocean City DWI Trial Involving Drugs
On May 25, 2011, Ocean City DWI Attorney John W. Tumelty was successful in getting Vanessa Camacho found not guilty of a DWI “for drugs” charge following a two-day trial.
The Ocean City Police arrested Ms. Camacho several months ago for speeding over the 9th Street Bridge-Causeway. She was stopped for doing 76 mph in a 30 mph speed zone. The police ordered Ms. Camacho out of the vehicle, had her perform field sobriety tests, and placed her under arrest for DWI. The arresting officer stated that the defendant failed the field sobriety tests that were performed on the street. The police department breath test results showed that she had no alcohol in her system. The arresting officer had Ms. Camacho evaluated by a Drug Recognition Expert police officer. Sgt. Daniel Dubbs of the Ocean City Police Department is a Certified Drug Recognition Expert in the State of New Jersey. Sgt. Dubbs conducted a comprehensive physical examination of Ms. Camacho in an effort to determine whether she was under the influence of drugs. Sgt. Dubbs had her do coordination tests, eye tests and checked her pulse, blood pressure, and body temperature. Sgt. Dubbs concluded that Ms. Camacho was under the influence of a central nervous system stimulant and marijuana. The toxicology report was positive for Ecstasy which is a hallucinogenic drug.
A not guilty verdict was entered following two-days of the trial. This included testimony from the State’s toxicology expert who formed an opinion that Ms. Camacho was under the influence of drugs. Ocean City and Cape May County DWI defense attorney John W. Tumelty successfully argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove drug intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense hired an expert witness, Dr. Richard Saferstein, Ph.D. Dr. Saferstein is an expert toxicologist and a pharmacologist. Dr. Saferstein prepared a report where he stated that the defendant was not under the influence of drugs. Dr. Saferstein stated that Ecstasy can be found in human urine up to 72 hours after the drug is ingested and long after the effects of this drug have dissipated. The physical effects of Ecstasy only last two to three hours. Hence, there was absolutely no correlation between the presence of Ecstasy in the defendant’s urine and impaired driving performance. The extent of any impairment from drugs can only be estimated by a direct measurement of the quantity of Ecstasy in the blood. This determination was not performed by the forensic chemist working at the New Jersey State Police lab.
Mr. Tumelty cross-examined the police officers and the State’s forensic chemist. Sgt. Dubbs stated that Ms. Camacho failed several sobriety tests at the police station. However, her blood pressure and body temperature were normal which is inconsistent with being under the influence of drugs. She did not show signs of slurred or impaired speech. Although the police said she was under the influence of marijuana, there was no odor of marijuana present on her or in her car. The police did not find any evidence of marijuana or smoking paraphernalia. The police had her do a finger-to-nose test at the police station which she performed fine.
The State’s evidence in a DWI case for drugs must include a toxicology report showing drugs in blood or urine and testimony from a drug recognition police officer expert on his evaluation of the defendant. However, in this case, the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction.