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DRE

Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE)

The Tampa Police Department trains its officers to become certified Drug Recognition Experts. If the officer has received approved National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) DRE training and International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) certification or recertification, then the officer is considered by the Tampa Police Department to be a Drug Recognition Expert. 

Although law enforcement officers use the term "Drug Recognition Expert," the courts often prohibit the word "expert" from being used in front of the jury and instead require everyone to use the word "evaluator" or the phrase "Drug Recognition Evaluator."

The objective of the program is to provide the field with certified experts who are capable of gathering evidence as necessary to substantiate charges of being under the influence of drugs in DUI cases.

By using this training, the officer will reach a conclusion about the drug category or medical conditions causing the impairment. In other words, the DREs are trained to articulate impairment and the category of drug(s) causing the impairment through the use of a standardized and systematic 12-step evaluation.

The DRE will also request the collection and analysis of an appropriate chemical sample to obtain corroborative, scientific evidence of the subject's drug use. We have found that the DRE waits to complete the DRE report until AFTER the results of the blood or urine test is available.

Attorneys for Accusations of Drug-Impaired Driving in Tampa, FL

If the DUI enforcement officer with the Tampa Police Department suspects you of being under the influence of drugs, the officer might request that you submit to a drug recognition evaluation. You need an attorney who is experienced showing the problems with the way these evaluations are performed.

The criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are experienced in filing motions to prohibit any mention of these DRE evaluations in front of the jury. We also fight to keep out testimony about the officer's conclusions after performing these types of evaluations.

When testimony about the DRE is allowed into court, we fight to show the limitations of these evaluations and the reasons the officer's conclusions should not be trusted.

If you are suspected of drug-impaired driving then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We focused on DUI defense in Tampa and Hillsborough County, FL.

Although many of our cases involve accusations of marijuana-impaired driving, we are also experienced in fighting allegations of impairment from other types of chemical and controlled substances.

Call 813-250-0500.


The DRE's Seven Broad Categories of Drugs

For purposes of these DRE evaluations, the officers are trained to recognize seven (7) broad categories of drugs including:

  • Cannabis: Marijuana, K2, etc.
  • Inhalants: Glue, Aerosols, etc.
  • Narcotic Analgesics: Heroin, Demerol, Oxycontin, etc.
  • Dissociative Anesthetics: PCP, Ketamine, etc.
  • Hallucinogens: LSD, Ecstasy, etc.
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants: Cocaine, Amphetamines, etc.
  • Central Nervous System Depressants: Alcohol, Barbiturates, Anti-depressants, etc.

When reaching their conclusions, the officers won't claim to know which drug was used, but will claim that the impairment was caused by one or more of these broad categories of drugs.


Definitions Related to DRE Investigation

The Tampa Police Department has standard operating procedures that define the guidelines for the Drug Evaluation Classification Program (DECP) found in SOP 349.2. The standard operating procedures contain several definitions listed below.

Drug Recognition Expert - an individual who has successfully completed all phases of training requirements for certification established by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Drug Evaluation and Classification Program (DECP) - A training program that focuses on a set of examination procedures, or steps that make up the DRE drug influence evaluation. 

Drug(s) - Any substance, which when taken into the human body, can impair the ability of the person to operate a vehicle safely. 

Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (DRE Instructor) - Individuals who, having been trained and certified as a drug recognition expert, receive further training and experience instructing within the drug evaluation and classification program. Certified instructors are responsible for observing, evaluating, and verifying the performance of DRE candidates.

Drug Recognition Expert Coordinator (DRE Coordinator) - A certified DRE who is responsible for maintaining program records, ensuring maintenance of program standards, facilitating training, and certification sessions. The DRE Coordinator is designated by the DRE/DEC State Coordinator for the IPTM subject to approval by the Special Operations Bureau Commander. 

Drug Evaluation - A process of systematically examining a person suspected of being under the influence of a drug, for the purpose of ascertaining what category of drug is causing the person’s impairment. 

Rolling Log - A log maintained by each DRE which documents all evaluations conducted, including opinions, toxicology results, and case disposition. The log is on a statewide database that documents the information and is controlled by the Institute of Police Technology and Management (IPTM).


When the DRE is Contacted in Tampa, FL

It is the position of the Tampa Police Department, that a person arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and suspected of drug impairment, should be evaluated by a DRE. 

A DRE should be contacted after a subject has been arrested for DUI (refer to SOP 349 – Chemical Test for Intoxication) and that subject’s level of impairment is not consistent with the breath alcohol level (Brac), or when there is evidence of the ingestion of drugs.

Because Florida State Statute 316.193 provides that the subject is presumed to be impaired by alcohol if the Brac is .08 or above, it is not necessary to contact a DRE if the Brac results are .08 or above. The SOPs in Tampa also provide that it is not necessary to contact a DRE if the subject is uncooperative.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Central Breath Testing Center maintains a current listing of DRE phone numbers.

The Drug Recognition Expert may be requested to assist other law enforcement agencies in Drug Influence Evaluations. In these situations, the DRE will follow the procedures established by the Tampa Police Department.


Circumstances Needed to Use the DRE

A DRE may respond to the requesting officer, after determining the need for a DRE. A DRE may be utilized under the following circumstances:

  • Suspects, who have been arrested for DUI, and have presented a breath sample of less than 0.080 BAC;
  • It is believed that the subject is under the influence of drug(s);
  • Cooperative suspects under arrest for other charges; or
  • Voluntary subjects for training. 

The DRE will administer the systematic standardized twelve-step process to determine drug impairment, based on a complete set of observable signs and symptoms that are known to be reliable indicators of drug impairment. 

The systematic process is intended to: 

  • Eliminate the possibility of a medical condition.
  • Determine the category of categories of drugs that is causing the impairment. 

The DRE has the authority to terminate the evaluation at any time for safety reasons. Drug Influence Evaluations will not be performed if a person is combative or violent. 


Facility Requirements for the DRE Evaluations

The Facility requirements for DRE evaluation are:

  • A room at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Central Breath Testing Center that is large enough to permit the administration of the standardized field sobriety exercises.
  • A room that can be completely darkened for the eye examinations.
  • Access to the breath testing equipment and facilities for urine or blood collection.
  • Testing facilities that will allow the drug evaluation process to be performed without interruption or distractions. 

After the DRE completes the twelve-step process, they will provide the completed Drug Influence Evaluation report to the agency coordinator for further dissemination and approval.

The Drug Evaluation Report shall conform to the NHTSA/IACP guidelines. 

The DRE will ensure that the evidence collected from the subject (i.e. urine, suspected drugs, etc.) is submitted to FDLE according to Department guidelines.


The DRE Agency Coordinator at the Tampa Police Department

According to the standard operating procedures at the Tampa Police Department, the DRE Agency Coordinator is designated by the DRE/DEC State Coordinator for the IPTM subject to approval by the DUI Commander. The DRE Coordinator must have completed their certification and have a working knowledge of the DRE program.

The DRE Agency Coordinator’s function shall include:

  • Evaluate each of the Department's DRE’s to determine if they have met the criteria for recertification.
  • Approve/Disapprove Drug Influence Evaluation reports.
  • Conduct training when applicable.
  • Approve/Disapprove candidates for DRE School and/or DRE Instructor School based on established criteria.

The Agency Coordinator will act as a liaison between the DRE Officer and the Regional Coordinator. The Agency Coordinator will provide the Regional Coordinator with updates concerning the Agency's activity and recertification requests. 

The Agency Coordinator will be responsible for the dissemination of information received from both the Regional and State Coordinator to the DRE officers and Instructors within their agency.

The Agency Coordinator will ensure adherence to the guidelines necessary to be a DRE.


This article was last updated on Wednesday, May 30, 2018.