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Drug Recognition Expert

Driving impaired unfortunately is on the rise. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration there was a staggering 20 percent increase of nighttime drivers testing positive for drugs since the year 2007. As a way to combat this, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has decided to combat this influx of drugged driving with a program that turns officers into Drug Recognition Experts (DRE).

DRE relies on a 12-step process which is supposed to determine the driver’s impairment level. An officer can apply to become a Drug Recognition Expert within their local state Drug Evaluation Classification Program (DCEP) Coordinator. Using relatively simple training, a police officer can now gain the title of an “expert” and even give this type of testimony in court.

Since a DRE can give “expert testimony” it can really sway a jury in a DWI case. Judges are much more likely to take a DRE seriously than another police officer who doesn’t have a special certification. It’s important you’re aware of what a DRE is and how to counteract this type of case with qualified legal counsel.

DWI Attorney for DRE Police Officer in Montgomery County, Texas

DRE officers may be designated as experts at identifying drugged drivers, but in reality, they only receive a moderate amount of training that is beyond basic DWI law enforcement protocol. To fight a DWI case involving DRE testimony, it’s important you have strong legal counsel that can fight against it.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI involving a DRE officer, it’s important you seek contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Having an attorney on your side who has prior practice with DRE-related cases is essential. You can find that attorney by contacting the defense lawyers at Evans & Powell, PLLC.

Contact us at (713) 622 - 2000 and we will set up your first consultation free. Evans & Powell, PLLC represents people throughout the greater Montgomery County area including Willis, Splendora, New Caney, Conroe, Magnolia and Montgomery.

Overview of DRE Police Certification in Texas

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What Does Texas Consider to be a Drug Recognition Expert?

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) decided to implement a new program in 1970 after a surge of drug-impaired driving and accidents occurred. This was because before it was difficult for police to identify drugged drivers since they tend to have a low blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) reading. To be able to convict more people for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), they created the Drug Influence Evaluation (DIE) procedure.

DIE was founded to detect drivers who could be under the influence of drugs. Over time, the procedure transformed into a curriculum that’s designed for drug detection, which is know as DRE certification. Police officers who complete this training can earn the title of Drug Recognition Expert and be considered expert testimony in court.

Although DRE certified officers can technically be used as expert testimony, many Texas courtrooms find DRE evidence to be inadmissible. This is due to how varied the courses can be by county and how DRE evidence relies heavily on subjective reasoning as well as field sobriety testing. The only real way you can determine if a person is under the influence is if you test the blood-alcohol concentration in a bio sample.

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The DRE 12-Step Process

Certified DRE officers must follow a 12-step process when they are attempting to identify drugged drivers. This is a checklist of procedures that was created to spot signs of drug use. However, most of the 12-step process depends on rudimentary science and subjective physical exercises.

Listed below are the 12 steps used by DRE.

  1. Breathalyzer Test
  2. Questioning the suspected DWI driver
  3. Preliminary examination composed of eye-tracking exercises and questions
  4. Evaluating the driver’s eyes through tests such as the Vertical Gaze Nystagmus (VGN), the Lack of Convergence (LOC), or the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
  5. Assess the driver’s physical and mental state through field sobriety tests;
  6. Examination of vital signs such as blood pressure or pulse;
  7. Checking pupil size with a pupilometer and penlight;
  8. Examining the driver’s muscle tone;
  9. Overlooking the driver’s arms for any injection sites;
  10. Documenting the results of the process;
  11. Question the driver about any suspicious evidence found in the process; and
  12. Ask for a urine or blood sample for testing

Although the 12-step process may sound impressive, it’s important to remember to look at the bigger picture. Drugs can lead to a variety of side effects depending on the amount taken, the drug itself and how that particular person reacts. Some people are perfectly able to perform field sobriety tests while high and others may face a lot of struggle.

In addition, the 12-step procedure is based on subjectivity. For instance, an increase in pupil size isn’t a strong enough indicator that someone is under the influence of drugs. Other factors such as fear or even certain medications can cause a person’s pupil to dilate. The only way to determine if a person has used drugs is through chemical testing.

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Why DRE Certification Isn’t Viable

The word expert may be in the title, but it doesn’t take more than a moderate amount of training for an officer to become a DRE. To meet the basic requirements an officer must have the following qualifications:

  • Be commissioned as a Police Officer in Texas;
  • Completion of the 24-hour Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) course;
  • Finished a minimum of two years of service (excluding any Reserve time); and
  • Have a background and experience in making DWI arrests

Once an officer has completed the listed requirements above, they can then apply to be a DRE. In total, the program’s three phases total up to 152 hours. After they’ve finished their courses officers are required to take a final exam and have approval from two DRE instructors.

Listed below are the three phases for becoming DRE.

  • Phase One – DRE potential officers must complete a 16-hour DRE Pre-school first. The course introduces the 12-step process, seven drug categories, eye examination procedures and how to effectively perform a field sobriety test.
  • Phase Two – Next is a 56-hour set of DRE classes as a requirement. The school will expand on drug evaluation procedures, drug categories, examining vital signs of a drugged person and sober person, drug combinations, and preparing for expert testimony on the stand.
  • Phase Three – Officers must be required to complete a minimum of 12 drug evaluations under the supervision of a DRE instructor after phase two. The process takes approximately 80 hours upon completion. Once they’ve finished the DRE potential will have to take a final examination.

It’s true that DRE training is much more detailed and takes a longer time than standard DWI training for law enforcement. However, physicians and lab technicians take years of medical school and residencies so they can accurately read blood or urine samples accurately. In comparison, the schooling to become a DRE is not substantial at all. Not to mention the fact that most DRE certified officers cannot accurately discern one drug from another.

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Additional Resources

Drug Recognition Expert – Visit the official website of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and learn more about DRE 12-step program and training. Access the site to learn more about the 12-step process as well as what each step entails, DRE conferences for 2019 and where to apply for DRE certification.

Marijuana Use and Driving – Visit a document provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and learn more about marijuana use and driving under the influence. Access the document to learn marijuana driver and accident-related statistic as well as how cannabis consumption can affect your ability to operate a vehicle.

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DRE Defense Lawyer in Conroe, Texas

If you or someone you know has been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), then it’s important you contact an attorney who is familiar with DRE testimony and training. One firm with a whole team of lawyers who are familiar with DRE procedures is Evans & Powell, PLLC. We have the right legal counsel that can be used to fight against DRE testimony in a DWI case.

You can reach us at this number (713) 622 - 2000 and we will set up your first consultation today. We have poked holes in arguments and challenged many DRE experts during cross-examinations. Call us now at (713) 622 - 2000 and we will schedule a case consultation immediately.

Evans & Powell, PLLC has clients throughout the greater Montgomery County area including New Caney, Willis, Splendora, Montgomery and Magnolia.

Evans & Powell, PLLC