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How flawed is the Drug Recognition Expert program?

On Behalf of | Apr 20, 2022 | DUI

When police stop drivers under suspicion of drunk driving, the drivers can expect to undergo tests to determine whether they are intoxicated. Police use roadside breath tests to obtain probable cause, and they confirm their suspicions through more sophisticated tests. However, what do Minnesota and North Dakota police do if they suspect a driver is under the influence of drugs?

Because most illegal and prescription drugs do not register on a breath test, police have developed a system of analyzing certain factors that seem to be common in those under the influence of various drugs. Some officers receive special training to recognize those factors. If you are pulled over under suspicion of driving while impaired by drugs, you should be prepared for your encounter with one of these drug recognition experts.

What makes them experts?

The difference between the officer who pulls you over and the DRE they call to the scene is two weeks. Officers aspiring to be DREs receive two weeks of classroom training. They learn how to form an opinion on whether you are impaired based on their own observations, such as your coordination and balance, your heart rate, and other factors. Then they must pass a test to receive certification as a DRE.

You may agree that two weeks does not seem like much to make one an expert, but the DRE officer may now testify against you in court as an expert witness. You should have many concerns about this. Because DREs base their results largely on their own opinion and potential biases, you will likely find it challenging to recreate those results in order to build a solid defense strategy.

How accurate are DRE opinions?

DRE’s in many jurisdictions claim to have high accuracy rates. However, this claim is not always what it seems to be. In fact, a DRE’s report is considered accurate if it matches the toxicology even if the case is dismissed or the court does not convict the driver. Toxicology is not always a fair indication of impairment. If a DRE knows you consumed an intoxicating substance, he or she can easily decide you are impaired to confirm your blood test results.

Some substances remain in your system for days or even weeks after ingesting them. These will probably show up on a blood test even if you are not impaired. Unfortunately, a DRE can gain credibility in court by testifying to having a high accuracy rate. Therefore, a positive blood test combined with a DRE’s expert opinion puts you at a serious disadvantage, so you would be wise to seek legal counsel if you are facing charges of drugged driving.


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