May 12

A Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE) is a standardized protocol used by law enforcement officers to determine if an individual is impaired by drugs. It is a systematic process that involves trained officers conducting a series of tests and examinations to assess the physical and mental signs of drug impairment.

The DRE process typically consists of the following steps:

  1. Preliminary Examination: The officer first observes the subject’s behavior, appearance, and overall demeanor. They may look for physical symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, or abnormal behavior that could indicate drug influence.
  1. Interview and Preliminary Examination: The officer conducts an interview to gather information about the subject’s recent activities, drug use history, and any prescription medications they may have taken. They also perform a preliminary examination, which includes measuring vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse rate, and body temperature.
  2. Eye Examination: The officer uses a specialized examination called a “horizontal gaze nystagmus” (HGN) test to check for involuntary eye movements, which can be a sign of drug impairment.
  3. Divided Attention Tests: The subject is asked to perform a series of tests that assess their ability to divide attention between multiple tasks. These tests may include the “walk-and-turn” test, the “one-leg stand” test, or other similar tasks.
  4. Clinical Examination: The officer examines the subject’s vital signs more thoroughly, including their muscle tone, pupillary size, and reaction to light. They also check for signs of injection sites or other physical evidence of drug use.
  5. Toxicology Testing: While the DRE process can provide strong indicators of drug impairment, it does not identify the specific drug(s) responsible. Therefore, if the DRE officer determines that impairment is likely due to drugs, they may request a blood, urine, or saliva sample for toxicology testing in a laboratory. This testing can identify the presence and concentration of drugs in the person’s system.

Based on the results of the evaluation, the DRE officer may provide an opinion on the category or categories of drugs that are likely causing impairment. This information can be valuable for further investigation, supporting arrests, and providing evidence in legal proceedings related to drug-impaired driving or other drug-related offenses.

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