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Cedar Rapids OWI Lawyer: What are the Dark Room tests in the context of DRE testing

by David A. Cmelik Law PLC


​DRE dark room testing is the seventh phase of the 12 phase DRE testing protocol. According to a prosecutor’s handbook, this is what happens in the dark room testing phase:

“During the seventh phase of the evaluation, we estimate the size of the subject’s pupils under three different lighting conditions to determine whether the subject’s pupils are dilated, constricted, or normal. Some drugs increase pupil size. Others may decrease pupil size. We also check the eyes’ reaction to light. Certain drugs may slow the eyes’ reaction to light. Finally, we examine the suspect’s nasal and oral cavities for signs of ingestion.”

American Prosecutors Research Institute: Drug Recognition: The Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program (available at http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/drug_evaluation_classification_dec.pdf)

In short, officers conduct a paramedical examination. They will sometimes use a pen light and a reference sheet to measure pupil size and note reaction times to changes in light stimulus. They will look at the test subject’s nose and mouth, tongue, and sheen and texture of his or her muscle tone and note any unusually “flaccid” or “rigid” muscle tone, purportedly a symptom of one drug or another.

They will look for “bumps” or raised taste buds and note the “color” of the tongue (they allege that a suspect’s tongue will be green if he or she has recently smoked marijuana; this might be equally true if he or she has just consumed green Skittles of Jell-O). They look for “strange odors” purportedly symptomatic of drug use.


If you or a loved one has been arrested for Operating While Intoxicated, or, impaired, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889 for a free initial consultation and begin charting your course back to life before legal crisis. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense

Weird Science Increasingly, officers are being trained to engage in paramedical testing that purports to measure the effect of drugs on the body through the administration of physical examinations, part seven of a twelve part "system" of drug recognition expertise, or, DRE testing for motorists suspected of impairment by something other than alcohol. Included in these tests is, for lack of a better phrase, a pupil reaction exam, as well as an oral and nasal cavity examination by a police officer.  If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, ​contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889.

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