Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE)

According to the Florida DECP State Coordinator for Impaired Driving Enforcement (IPTM), Florida currently has 103 DRE agencies, 375 DREs, 309 certified, 70 instructors, and 66 expired DREs. In 2001, 907 evaluations were administered.

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

The term “DRE” is used to designate a person specially trained to conduct evaluations of suspected drug-impaired subjects. In some law enforcement agencies, the term is “drug recognition expert.” In other agencies, the terms used include “drug recognition examiners” or “drug recognition evaluator. Some agencies use the term “DRT” (for drug recognition technicians) or ‘DRS” (drug recognition specialists).

Although some 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 program’s objective is to provide the field with officers capable of gathering the evidence necessary to substantiate charges of being under the influence of drugs in DUI cases.

By using this training, the officer might 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 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 often waits to complete the DRE report until AFTER the results of the blood or urine test become available.

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

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

The criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are experienced in filing and litigating motions to prohibit any mention of these DRE’s opinions in front of the jury. After performing these evaluations, we also fight to keep out testimony about the officer’s conclusions.

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, 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. Instead, the officer might claim that the impairment was caused by one or more of these broad categories of drugs.

Components of the DRE Testing Protocols

The premise of the DRE protocol is that the consumption of alcohol or drugs produces readily observable and distinguishable psychophysical symptoms. The twelve components of DRE testing protocols include:

  1. breath alcohol test
  2. interview of the arresting officer
  3. preliminary examination and first pulse
  4. eye examination
  5. divided attention psychophysical tests
  6. vital signs and second pulse
  7. dark room examinations
  8. examination for muscle tone
  9. check for injection sites and third pulse
  10. suspect’s statements and other observations
  11. opinions of the evaluator
  12. toxicological examination

Definitions Related to DRE Investigation in Tampa, FL

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 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 focusing on examination procedures or steps that make up the DRE drug influence evaluation.

Drug(s) – Any substance, 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 is responsible for maintaining program records, maintaining program standards, and 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 to ascertain what category of drug is causing the person’s impairment.

Rolling Log – A log maintained by each DRE that 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 Used in a DUI Case

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.

The standard operating procedures suggest that a DRE should be contacted after a subject has been arrested for DUI (refer to SOP 349 – Chemical Test for Intoxication) if the 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 unnecessary to contact a DRE if the BrAC results are .08 or above. The SOPs in Tampa also provide that contacting a DRE is unnecessary if the subject is uncooperative.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Central Breath Testing Center currently lists the phone numbers of DRE officers.

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 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 anytime 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 examination.
  • 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 must conform to the NHTSA/IACP guidelines.

The DRE must also 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 must include the following:

  • 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 disseminating information received from 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.

Additional Resources

DRE Documents and Forms – Visit the website of the Washington State Patrol to find resources for Drug Recognition Expert forms, DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST Basic) Manuals, DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST Basic) Presentations, Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Teacher-Trainer (SFST -TT) Manuals, and Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) Manuals.

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Our Attorneys

Leslie M. Sammis

Leslie M. Sammis

Jason D. Sammis

Jason D. Sammis

Joshua L. Monteiro

Joshua L. Monteiro

Dominique Celerin

Dominique Celerin

Katherine A. Aranda

Katherine A. Aranda

Idalis Vento

Idalis Vento

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