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What is a DRE Drug Impairment Protocol (12-Step Process)

The DRE protocol is a method of evaluating suspects who police believe are under the influence of drugs. This evaluation is used for determining the following:

  • If the suspect is impaired
  • If the impairment is related to a medical condition or drugs
  • The drugs causing the impairment

The 12-Step DRE Protocol

The 12 steps used by DRE are listed here.

1. Breath Alcohol Test

The arresting officer reviews the BrAC test results to determine if the impairment is consistent with the BrAC. If the impairment isn’t explained by the test, a DRE evaluation is requested.

2. Interview with the Arresting Officer

The investigation begins with a review of the BrAC test results and a discussion of the circumstances of the arrest. The DRE gets information about the appearance, behavior, or driving of the suspect.

3. Preliminary Exam and First Pulse

An initial exam is conducted to determine if the subject is injured or if there’s another condition unrelated to drugs. Standard questions are asked about the individual’s health and what they have recently eaten, drank, and drug use while the DRE observes speech, face, breath, coordination, and attitude.

4. Eye Exam

Observation for VGN, HGN, or lack of convergence.

5. Divided Attention Psychophysical Tests

Four psychophysical tests are administered, the Finger to Nose evaluation, the One Leg Stand evaluation, Walk and Turn evaluation, and Modified Romberg Balance evaluation.

6. Second Pulse and Vital Signs

The subject’s pulse, temperature and blood pressure are taken.

7. Dark Room Exam

Pupil size of the subject is determined using three lighting conditions and the use of a pupilometer. This determines if the pupils are normal, constricted, or dilated.

8. Muscle Tone Exam

Muscle tone is considered as there are several drugs that result in the muscles becoming rigid and others cause them to become flaccid and loose.

9. Check for Injection Marks and a Third Pulse

Injection sites are looked for and the subject’s pulse is taken a third (final) time.

10. Statement from the Subject and Other Observations

Miranda rights are read to the subject and askes additional questions about the use of drugs.

11. Opinions and Analysis of Evaluator

Based on the evaluation the DRE will form an opinion on if the subject is actually impaired. If the DRE determines impairment is present, they will indicate the category of drugs that have contributed to the subject’s impairment.

12. Toxicological Examination

The last step in the process is a toxicological examination, which is a chemical test or several tests that offer additional scientific and admissible evidence that supports the opinion provided by the DRE.

It’s important to understand that the protocol used by the DRE isn’t new or novel. It’s a compilation of tests that doctors have used for many decades to determine and assess drug- or alcohol-induced impairment. However, understanding the process used by officers can help an individual better understand what will happen if they are pulled over and charged with a DUI or DWI for drug use.

If you find yourself facing these charges, in either Kansas or Missouri, it’s best to hire legal representation to provide you with the legal services you need.


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