Drug Recognition Experts, or DREs, are Michigan police officers who have undergone training to recognize the symptoms of drug use. DREs sometimes provide assistance in impaired driving investigations when the arresting officer believes the suspect to be under the influence of something other than alcohol. Due to this extensive training, a Michigan DUI drug lawyer can be very helpful in building a strong defense.
During DRE training, officers are taught to follow a 12-step drug recognition procedure:
- Breath alcohol test: this step is usually performed by the arresting officer. If the driver’s behavior is inconsistent with alcohol impairment, then a DRE may be called to the scene.
- Interview with arresting officer: the DRE will begin his or her investigation by asking the arresting officer about all relevant details, such as the driver’s appearance and behavior and whether any evidence of drug use has been found.
- Preliminary examination: this step includes interviewing the driver to obtain basic information. During the interview, the DRE takes note of the driver’s mannerisms, speech, coordination and attitude, looking for potential signs of drug use. During the preliminary examination, the DRE will also take the driver’s pulse for the first time.
- Eye exam: the DRE will examine the driver’s eyes for nystagmus (involuntary twitching) and ocular convergence.
- Divided attention tests: the DRE administers a series of four divided attention tests, which include the walk-and-turn and one-leg stand tests. These tests are also part of the standardized field sobriety tests utilized by police officers during drunk driving investigations.
- Vital signs: the DRE again checks the driver’s pulse, along with his or her blood pressure and temperature. Certain categories of drugs may lower or raise the user’s vital signs.
- Dark room exam: during this stage, the DRE examines the driver’s eyes under three different lighting conditions. A device called a pupilometer is used to determine whether the pupils are constricted, dilated, or normal.
- Muscle exam: certain categories of drugs can cause the user’s muscles to become rigid, while others may cause the muscles to relax.
- Search for injection sites: the DRE will search the driver for possible injection sites, used for certain types of drugs. The DRE also checks the driver’s pulse for the third time during this stage.
- Driver’s statements: if the Miranda warning has not already been read, the DRE will do so and proceed to ask the driver questions about his or her drug use.
- Analysis and opinions: at this stage, the DRE forms an opinion on the driver’s impairment based on the investigation. If impairment is suspected, the DRE must state which category (or categories) of drugs the driver may have used.
- Toxicological exam: the final step in the drug recognition process is a chemical test of blood, urine, or saliva.
While this procedure may appear to be systematic and objective, it is far from scientific. Police officers who undergo the three-week drug recognition course are not qualified to make medical diagnoses, and an experienced defense attorney can counter their testimony at trial.