Criminal Law

What is a DRE Officer?

A DRE is a Drug Recognition Evaluation trained law enforcement officer. This officer has been through specific training to detect signs of intoxication for DWI Drug offenses. The DRE officer follows a DRE manual which defines a drug as follows: “any substance, which, when taken into the human body, can impair the ability of the person to operate a vehicle safely.” As you can see, the definition of “drug” the police use can be extremely broad.

The drug recognition evaluation process has three parts. First, the officer must verify the person is impaired and that the blood alcohol level of the suspect is not consistent with the level of impairment which is observed by the officer.  This just means the amount of booze the person has had that night can’t be the only thing they’re on, based on how they’re acting. Second, the officer must make a determination if the impairment is due to a “drug” or due to some type of medical condition. Finally, the officer is supposed to use the diagnostic procedures to identify the type of drug which is causing the impairment.

Drugs are usually categorized into groups. These groups contain a wide variety of drugs such as: Marijuana, PCP, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Heroin, Mushrooms, Xanax, Ambien, Clonazepam, Duster, and many others.

The officer will normally run through a twelve-step protocol to determine if the person is impaired by some drug. Here are the steps the officer is generally supposed to go through:

  • Perform a check of the person’s blood alcohol level to determine if they are over .08.
  • Interview the officer who made the initial arrest to see if the person admitted to any drug use or if drugs were found in their possession.
  • Interview the arrested person to see what medications they are currently taking and other relevant medical information.
  • Conduct the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.
  • Conduct the walk and turn test, one leg stand, or a few other drug specific tests.
  • Conduct a vital signs check of the arrested individual.
  • Conduct a dark room pupil size test of the arrested individual.
  • Conduct a check of the arrested individuals muscle tone.
  • Conduct a check for injections sites.
  • Ask the arrested individual what medications they have taken.
  • The DRE officer will then form an opinion based on the information they have collected as to the type of drug, if any, that the person is impaired by.
  • Conduct a urine or blood test of the arrested individual.

As you can see, there are many steps which must be properly executed by a DRE officer to ensure a proper conclusion about whether someone is impaired by some drug. And like all other aspects of an Arkansas DWI case, this area has many points which can be attacked by a good defense attorney. An experienced Arkansas DWI lawyer will know how to attack each point and how to use the information gathered by the officer to defend your case.  

Request A Consultation