Written by attorney Kenneth Albert Vercammen | Dec 3, 2018

Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE)

Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) A Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) is a police officer who claims they can recognize whether someone is on drugs, what kind of drugs they are on, and whether their ability to drive has been impaired. The theory of the DRE is that they claim to be able to determine whether someone is under the influence of drugs through a visual evaluation. Lawyers Weekly USA , "Growing New Practice Area for Drunk Driving Lawyers" dated September 20, 1999, p. 19. There are few Appellate courts that have called them experts. DREs frequently administer their tests when someone is arrested for drunk driving, but passes a breath test. The DRE's testimony may provide better evidence for the prosecution than toxicology reports. Blood tests may not measure the quantity of drugs taken and, even if they do, may not show a level high enough to prove impairment. Urine tests do not accurately pinpoint when the drugs were ingested and may not show the quantity. Therefore blood and urine tests alone may not be sufficient to prove the person was affected by drugs when they were driving. The DRE argues they can provide the link between the toxicology report and the Driving Under the Influence charge. The DRE offers testimony that the defendant failed the physical tests administered by the DRE, showing that the defendant may be impaired by the drugs in his system. Lawyers Weekly USA , "Growing New Practice Area for Drunk Driving Lawyers" dated September 20, 1999, p. 20. The DRE advises that their examination of the suspect is broken into 5 parts: 1. Coordination tests. The suspect must perform the "walk and turn," "one leg stand," "finger to nose," and "Romberg balance" test (where he must estimate when 30 seconds have passed while standing with his head tilted back and his eyes closed). 2. Eye tests. The DRE checks the suspect's pupil size under various lighting conditions. He checks for "horizontal gaze nystagmus" where the eyes twitch when looking off to the side and "vertical nystagmus" where the eyes twitch when looking up. The DRE also checks to see if the eyes cross normally when looking down at the nose. 3. Vital signs. The DRE measures the suspect's pulse, temperature and blood pressure. 4. Muscle tone. The DRE feels the suspects arm muscles to see if the are loose and rubbery or tense. 5. Visual inspection. The DRE inspects the suspect’s mouth and nose for signs of drug ingestion, the presence of drug debris and discoloration. The DRE checks the suspect's arms for needle marks. Lawyers Weekly USA , "Growing New Practice Area for Drunk Driving Lawyers" dated September 20, 1999, p. 20. The DRE determines whether the results of the exam performed on the suspect match symptoms associated with 7 drug classes. The drug classes used are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens, phencyclidine, narcotic analgesics, inhalants, and cannabis. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, "Laboratory Validation Study of Drug Evaluation and Classification Program: Ethanol, Cocaine, and Marijuana", Vol. 20, October 1996, p. 468. For example, a person on a depressant should have normal pupils, but twitching eyes on the nystagmus tests, a slow pulse rate, low blood pressure, drowsiness, and slurred speech. Persons on cannabis should have dilated pupils, no eye twitching, a high pulse rate and blood pressure, their eyes may not cross normally when they look down their nose, and they may have disorientation. The DRE also interviews the arresting officer, reviews the breathalyzer results and asks the suspect if he has been using drugs. Finally, the DRE concludes whether the suspect is behaviorally impaired, if the impairment is drug-related, and the drug class or combination of classes likely to be causing the impairment. Lawyers Weekly USA , "Growing New Practice Area for Drunk Driving Lawyers" dated September 20, 1999, p. 20. Drug Recognition Experts are Not Recognized by New Jersey Courts There is no decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court recognizing the reliability of DRE testimony as proof of driving under the influence. The written opinions which permit the admission of DRE testimony either say the evidence is "non-scientific" or do not address this issue. However, the recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 119 S.Ct. 1167 (1999), extends the Daubert screening test for expert testimony to "non-scientific" testimony. Therefore, if the N.J. Supreme Court adopts Kumho, the DRE's testimony would not qualify as reliable evidence using the Daubert test. See Lawyers Weekly USA , "Growing New Practice Area for Drunk Driving Lawyers" dated September 20, 1999, p. 20. source Lawyers Weekly USA Kenneth Vercammen Esq. 732-572-0500 2053 Woodbridge Ave. Edison, NJ 08817

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