Drug Recognition Experts - Not All They're Cracked Up to Be

Posted by Richard Lawson | May 04, 2018 | 0 Comments

As the State of Georgia has continued to crack down on driving under the influence (DUI) offenses, different methods have been used to prevent further impaired driving. One of these methods is the use of Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training in which Georgia law enforcement officers receive specialized training to teach them how to spot impaired drivers. An experienced Cobb County DUI Attorney can protect your rights when it comes to dealing with these "experts."

A Little Background

Police can detect drivers impaired by the use of alcohol through field sobriety tests such as the Breathalyzer test or the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (a test which requires a person to follow a pen or other object with their eyes). The results can then be confirmed with a blood or urine test.

DUI detection for drugs is not so simple. There are no specific limits set for drugs to determine whether a driver is impaired as a result of that drug. No device or test exists for field testing to determine whether a driver is under the influence of drugs. Georgia law requires that any test or detection technique meet a certain level of scientific certainty, a certainty which does not exist for much of what DREs test for.

Drug Recognition Expert Training

To become a DRE, police officers must take several phases of classroom training, field training, and a final examination at the end. Training includes instruction on proper drug evaluation techniques, drug classifications, symptoms of drug abuse and impaired driving, and legal issues related to drug-related DUI. 

Once this training is completed, police officers are certified as DREs through the International Association of Chiefs of Police. They are now considered experts in detecting signs of drug intoxication in drivers. However, all too often these "experts" detect false positives and falsely arrest people who are not intoxicated.

A DRE follows a 12-step process, which includes the following.

  1. Breath Alcohol Test: if the impairment is not explained by this test, then
  2. Interview by arresting officer,
  3. Preliminary Examination and First Pulse,
  4. Eye Exam,
  5. Divided Attention Psychophysical Tests,
  6. Vital Signs and Second Pulse,
  7. Dark Room Examinations,
  8. Examination for Muscle Tone,
  9. Check for Injection Sites and Third Pulse,
  10. Subject's Statements and other Observations,
  11. Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator,
  12. Toxicological Examination: this is usually a blood, urine, or saliva sample.

A False Arrest in Georgia

Katelyn Ebner is a bartender and was pulled over on her way home from work. She had not been drinking, but was pulled over for allegedly crossing the center line. She passed a number of tests which showed that she had not been drinking, but was then asked by the police officer when she had last smoked marijuana. Katelyn explained that she had never smoked marijuana and even offered to take a drug test to prove it.

Despite all of this, the Cobb County Police Officer proceeded to arrest her anyway, arguing that she showed signs of intoxication from marijuana. The officer is a trained Drug Recognition Expert. After four months, her charges were dismissed by prosecutors. Her tests came back clean.

"Experts" can make mistakes. They can also fail to follow appropriate procedure that may call into question their judgment and findings.

If you are facing conviction for a DUI, it is important to discuss the facts and circumstances of your case with an experienced Cobb County DUI attorney. Call 404-816-4440 or contact us on our website today to set up a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard S. Lawson is passionate about intoxicated driving defense. Unlike some attorneys, Mr. Lawson devotes 100% of his legal practice to helping people stand up for their rights against DUI charges. For more than 20 years, Mr. Lawson has dutifully fought for his clients' freedom, resolving more 4,900 impaired driving cases during the course of his career. Today, Mr. Lawson has developed a reputation as a skilled negotiator and continues to help clients by fighting to keep them out of jail.


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