Which tactics do law enforcement officers use to identify drivers they believe are impaired? According to an article in verywellmind.com, this rise in prescription drug use has prompted police to begin using Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to determine if a driver is impaired.
This is done in accordance with the International Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) program – which is coordinated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
How the process works
The DRE protocol is a 12-part process used to determine whether a suspect is impaired by drugs and identify which drugs may be involved. The steps include:
- Administering a breath alcohol test upon stopping a driver for suspicion of DWI: In some cases, a suspect’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) may be under the legal limit of 0.08. If an officer still suspects that a person is impaired, a DRE may be called upon.
- Interviewing the suspect: After reviewing the breath test results, a DRE may ask questions and observe a suspect’s behavior and overall demeanor.
- Conducting a preliminary examination and first pulse: A DRE officer may conduct a preliminary examination to determine if a suspect’s behavior is caused by health condition or injury. The DRE may question a suspect about his or her health and use of prescription medication. The DRE may also observe a suspect’s pupils and eye movement, as well as check the pulse rate three times.
- Conducting an eye examination: A DRE may administer an eye examination for horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), vertical gaze Nystagmus (VGN), and lack of eye convergence. An eye examination may determine which classification of drugs a suspect may be impaired by.
- Administering a field sobriety test: During a field sobriety test, a DRE may ask a suspect to perform a walk and turn, one-leg stand, finger-to-nose, and a Roberg Balance (which requires suspects to stand with their feet placed together, extend their hands in front of them, and close their eyes).
- Conduct a dark room examination: If a suspect is arrested and booked, a DRE may determine if his or her pupils are dilated, constricted, or normal by using a pupilometer. During this examination, a DRE may also identify other signs of drug use by checking the nasal and oral cavities.
- Checking muscle tone: Since some drugs can cause muscles to tense or relax, a DRE may check a suspect’s skeletal muscle tone to help determine impairment.
- Checking for injection sites: A DRE may further check a suspect’s arms or other common injection sites for signs of drug use.
- Questioning a suspect after arrest: After a DRE has read a suspect’s Miranda rights, further questioning regarding drug use may be conducted.
- Forming an opinion based on analysis: A DRE may form an opinion regarding whether or not a suspect is impaired by identifying which classification of drugs are involved based on the DRE Drug Symptomatology Matrix.
- Administering a toxicological examination: Lastly, a DRE may call for a suspect to take a urine, blood, and/or saliva test. The results of a toxicology test may provide evidence of impairment.
Understanding your rights
If you were stopped by police and arrested on suspicion of DWI, it’s critical that you always put your rights first. Errors in the DRE protocol are possible and can lead to a wrongful DWI conviction if evidence is brought before a jury. Furthermore, the behavior you exhibit and the statements you make during an interview can be used as incriminating evidence.
That’s why it’s important to remain calm and comply with police, but you aren't required to answer any questions or give statements. It’s best to remain silent and consult with an experienced Texas DWI defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer today.