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What Is a Drug Recognition Expert?

A Drug Recognition Expert, or DRE, is a law enforcement officer who has received unique training to recognize signs of impairment in drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


What Is a DRE?

In most cases, a DRE officer is called if a driver seems to be intoxicated, but they can pass a breath test. DRE officers are trained to follow a process that involves 12 steps1 to determine if a driver is under the influence of any type of drug.

During the evaluation process, the DRE will interview the arresting officer and then contact the arrested driver. They make observations to determine if the individual suffers from a medical condition that would explain their actions or behavior. The next step is to measure the driver’s pupil size, do field sobriety testing, measure vital signs, and perform the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus2.

The next step during the evaluation is to conduct a “darkroom exam.” This is when a pupilometer is used to accurately measure a person’s pupil size under different lighting conditions. The DRE officer will also move the person’s arms to see if there are any track marks (where drugs are injected) and to check the individual’s muscle tone. The last steps include an interview with the suspect. After complete, the DRE officer will submit their opinion and decide if a urine or blood test is needed.


DRE in Kansas

It is important to note that in Kansas, the use of a DRE is still somewhat new. There are still several challenges when it comes to convicting people of DUI. A police officer is not a medical doctor. This means they do not have the skill or training to be able to interpret medical conditions accurately.

There are several hundred explanations where a person’s pulse or blood pressure or off or why the person’s eyes look like they do that are not related to drug or alcohol use. For example, the individual may be taking medication that results in these conditions, but that does not impair a person to a point where they cannot safely operate a vehicle.

There are also still questions regarding if this type of science should or can be used in court. For example, one of the main tests that are administered by a DRE is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. However, in Kansas, this test is not admissible in court because it is unreliable3.


Hire an Attorney for Help with DRE Assessments

If you are evaluated by a DRE officer, you may face an array of charges. Unfortunately, you may believe that some of these are not based on fact. If you find yourself in this situation, hiring an attorney with experience handling these types of cases is best. The legal professional you hire can build a case and gather evidence to help show why the DRE test is inaccurate and should be inadmissible during the your upcoming court case.




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