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IACP Roll Call Video: Utilizing Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) Transcript

Total Running Time: Approximately 12:00 minutes


Male suspect1:
Simulating smoking MJ from a pipe inside vehicle and then driving

(Show video of car driving after smoking – approximately 60 seconds of driving)

Driving under the influence of drugs, which includes marijuana and many other impairing substances, continues to be a problem throughout the country. Everyday, no matter the day of the week or time of day, drug-impaired drivers are using our roadways. Sadly, many go undetected and are not detained even when contacted by law enforcement.

DRE State Coordinator1:
(Video of state coordinator standing next to patrol car)
There have been numeous cases throughout the country where law enforcment agencies have been sued for failure to take action against impaired drivers. This includes drivers impaired by alcohol and more recently, drivers impaired by drugs.

(Show various news clippings of headlines where failure of police to act against impaired drivers)

Training is taking place throughout the country, including in your state, making it possible for officers to be more proficient in identifying drivers who are under the influence of drugs.

Arresting Officer1:
(Mock roadside contact – officer and driver)
(Officer to driver) I’m concerned about your ability to drive safely. Have you been drinking any alcohol or used any drugs today?

Arresting Officer1:
(New scene with officer conducting HGN test at roadside with driver)
I want you to follow my light with your eyes only as I move it from side to side.

Male Suspect1:
I haven’t been drinking, but I did smoke some marijuana earlier today.

(Show suspect in the Walk & Turn test position as narrator speaks)

It is important that officers understand and be able to recognize the indicators of drug impairment. Not only for marijuana, but any impairing substance.

(Show suspect walking heel-to-toe and then stopping at the end of the line appearing to be confused on what to do next)

Arresting Officer2 (TBD):
Do you remember my instructions? You were supposed to take 8 heel-to-toe steps on the line and then turn around and take 8 more heel-to-toe steps.

DRE State Coordinator2 (Use a different one of the recommended three state coordinators):
The goal of the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, also known as the Drug Recognition Expert program, is to train police officers with the tools to identify and remove drug-impaired drivers from the roadways to save lives and reduce crashes.

(Traffic stop where officer is contacting driver along roadway. No audio).
Here’s a nightmare scenario. It’s early morning and you stop a vehicle for speeding. You contact the driver who you determine has no operators license. You do not smell an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath and cite the driver for driving without an operators license. You also direct the driver to park his vehicle and call someone to come and get him. You leave the area and approximately 15 minutes later you hear a radio broadcast of a speeding, reckless driver with the vehicle description matching the vehicle you had just stopped. Minutes later you then hear an additional broadcast of crash involving the reckless driver. It is later determined the driver of the vehicle you stopped crossed the centerline and collided with another vehicle killing the driver. This nightmare scenario is actually a real-life scenario that did occur.

Display title: Roll Call: Utilizing the Drug Recognition Expert

Up until recently, drugged driving was relatively easy to get away with. Frustrated officers around the country lacked the tools to prove a driver was impaired by drugs. The DRE Program, was created to address this growing problem. DRE is now a proven drug influence identification resource for all law enforcement agencies, performing over 28,000 drug evaluations each year. With the continuing efforts to legalize marijuana, as well as some other drugs, being able to recognize drug-impaired drivers is even more critical.

As police officers, contacting a driver impaired, whether by alcohol and/or drugs and let go, creates a major civil liability risk to you personally and to your agency as well.

DRE State Coordinator3:
As police officers, you may have received training and have varying levels of experience dealing with alcohol-impaired drivers. However, detecting drugged drivers, whether it be through the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement, also known as ARIDE, takes officers to the next level of identifying drugged driving suspects and taking appropriate action to remove them from our roadways. DRE is the ultimate level in identifying drug impairment and forming an opinion as to the drug category or categories likely causing the impairment.

DRE Training Officer:
(Scene of DRE field evaluation training using Mesa, AZ site)
Over here we have some DRE students who are evaluating an individual who has recently ingested drugs. They are doing a preliminary examination, asking him some general questions, getting some preliminary information, and they will be taking a first pulse, which are all part of the 12 steps comprising the DRE drug influence evaluation process.

Drug User:
(Scene at Mesa, AZ field certification site)
I smoked some marijuana today just before I left my friends house. I just smoke pot. I don’t use anything else.

(Video from back of drug user so not to show face. Officers will be setting in front of the suspect making observations. Mesa, AZ PD evaluation site.)

The DRE is a sophisticated crime scene investigator, specializing in the effects of categories of impairing drugs in the human body. The DRE responds to identify and collect vital evidence, which is often short lived, store it through a written record, and interpret it to identify the drug category or categories responsible for the impaired driving.

A DRE is a sophisticated crime scene investigator, specializing in the effects of categories of impairing drugs in the human body. While ARIDE officers receive general education pertaining to signs and symptoms of drug impairment, only certified DREs can provide specific, expert testimony that a drug category caused the driver’s impairment. That testimony is dependent upon the
collection of evidence from the defendant based on the DRE protocol. The ARIDE officer’s role is akin to a first responding officer who does an initial assessment and then secures the crime scene. The DRE responds to identify and collect vital evidence, store it through a written record, and interpret it to identify the drug class or classes responsible for the impaired driving.

Courts have closely examined the DEC Program and have found its methodology to be well founded upon a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. Going to a drugged driving trial without the testimony of a DRE is similar to prosecuting an alcohol DUI case without SFSTs—it can be done but is much more difficult. In order to meet their burden of proof, prosecutors must have thorough documentation of evidence, including drug impairment, before they will bring the case to court. The evidence gathered by the officer trained in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), the standardized and systematically-trained DRE, and the toxicology results together will provide the complete case file needed to proceed to court.

DREs use a 12-step systematic and standardized procedure on every suspect evaluated. It typically takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes to complete.

(Display the steps of the DRE 12-step process)

The complete 12-step DRE evaluation is critical because in some states, the courts require probable cause to justify the request for the individual to provide a urine or blood sample to cooborate the DREs opinion. However, just because a suspect refuses to provide a urine or blood sample does not prohibit the DRE from conducting an evaluation.

DRE State Coordinator1:
Typically when we think of drug-impaired driving, we think of a methamphetamine or heroin user. Drugs we tend to encounter on a regular basis. But, as we know, there are numerous impairing substances being used and abused by drivers today. It also includes drivers taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Even though it indicates ‘do not operate heavy machinery or equipment’ on the package or prescription bottle, many people ignore those warnings and drive impaired.

(Back to Interview of Suspect at Mesa, AZ Intake)

Arresting Officer1:
Other than smoking marijuana, have you used any other drugs today?

Male Suspect1:
No. I just smoke marijuana. I use it to help me relax.

Some officers might not think they have enough probable cause or proof, or think they are not qualified or experienced enough to arrest a driver for drugged driving. Both the ARIDE and DRE Program provide officers with the tools to believe in themselves and say “okay I see something that’s out of the ordinary. I’ve observed driving that I would equate with a DUI driver. What is it about this driver what makes me think he might be under the influence of something other than alcohol?”

Arresting Officer1:
How often do you use marijuana and how does it make you feel?”

Male Suspect1:
I’d use it everyday if I could. It relaxes me and makes me a better driver.

Drug use has a wide range of effects on users. Some common signs to look for include:

(Display list)

Drunk like behavior with a low or no alcohol content.

Dilated or constricted pupils.

Hyper or overly relaxed demeanor.

Mood swings.


Poor balance and coordination.

Bloodshot eyes.

Facial and/or body tremors.

Observations like these and others should start keying you into thinking ‘maybe I should get a DRE involved in this case.’

Display title: Requesting a DRE

Officers need to first develop probable cause during the traffic stop and determine the driver is possibly impaired. This should include administering the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, even if horizontal gaze nystagmus is not detected. As a reminder, there are many impairing drugs that do not cause HGN. Once you have developed probable cause, then make the arrest treating it the same way you’d conduct a DUI-alcohol arrest. That includes administering a breath test to the suspect.

If the suspect registers a .08 BAC or higher, then process the driver as an alcohol DUI. If the result is below a .08, then request a DRE to assist with the investigation.

(Scene of arresting officer using clip-on radio):
(Radio number) can you dispatch a DRE to my location for a drug evaluation?

When contacted by the DRE, he or she is probably going to ask you a few questions about the circumstances of the stop and arrest. They’re probably going to want to know what kind of driving you observed, how the suspect performed the SFSTs, and what the breath test result was.

The DRE evaluates and assesses the person’s appearance and behavior. The DRE also carefully measures and records vital signs and makes precise observations of the person’s automatic responses and reactions. The DRE also administers carefully designed psychophysical tests to evaluate the person’s judgment, information processing ability, coordination and various other characteristics. These psychophysical tests can provide strong evidence to show the suspect could not operate a motor vehicle safely. The DRE will systematically consider everything about the person that could indicate the influence of drugs.

DRE State Coordinator2:
One area where an officer might misunderstand the use of a DRE is the DRE does not take over the arrest from the arresting officer – it is the officer’s DUI arrest. The DRE is requested to conduct a drug influence evaluation and identify the cause of the impairment to assist you with your case.

If you need a DRE, you will typically go through your own agency if you have DREs in your agency. If you don’t have a DRE working, then utilize your local DRE call-out procedure. Many agencies have DREs available to assist other agencies when their DREs are not available.

DRE State Coordinator3:
Sharing DREs is a solid practice among law enforcement agencies. Most often, the DRE is called in on another officer’s arrest. The DRE is there to collect evidence on behalf of the arresting officer, not take over the arrest. Sharing DREs as a resource among agencies is prudent when agencies may be faced with fiscal shortfalls or budget cuts.

The DRE drug influence evaluation is generally a post-arrest procedure. The DRE will typically meet you at the local intake center or precinct office where the DRE evaluation will be conducted.

After a brief interview with the DRE, the arresting officer, depending on your department policy, can decide to assist with the evaluation or return to patrol if needed. In some situations, the DRE may request that you stay and be a witness to the evaluation process.

The DRE will then perform the 12-step drug influence evaluation. A blood or urine sample will be requested and the suspect will be booked or released per department policy. It is the DRE’s job to provide supporting facts and observations for prosecution.

DRE Officer1:
The DRE program is in use for everyone. We want any officer that ever feels that they need a DRE to make the request and utilize us. Most DREs are willing to be called out to conduct an evaluation. The general rule is, if the BAC level does not match the observed level of impairment, call the DRE and let us assist you in your case.

Arresting Officer2:
I think the DRE program is making a difference because we’re taking drivers off the road who maybe 10 years ago would not have been recognized as being impaired by drugs. Officers are starting to learn how to identify those drivers, and with the added resource of the DREs, we’re able to identify the drivers at a higher rate and gain more convictions.

DRE State Coordinator1:
Law enforcement need to become more proficient in recognizing drug-impaired drivers so that we can take appropriate action and not release impaired drivers at roadside. Our goal is to make our roadways safer and save lives.

Music into the credits