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What is Drug Recognition Expertise (DRE) in a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, OWI (DUI) Prosecution?

by David A. Cmelik Law PLC


Law enforcement advances so-called Drug Recognition Expertise, or, DRE, as a systematic protocol administered by trained and certified officers to rule out alcohol intoxication and legitimate medical emergencies while establishing reasonable grounds to believe someone is impaired by a stimulant or depressant other than alcohol or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Law enforcement and prosecutors consider it more stringent training and certification than typical standardized field sobriety test administration.


Law enforcement officers untrained in DRE who suspect impairment by a drug other than alcohol will sometimes call someone in who is further trained and certified in the DRE protocol. They may summon their own related ARIDE, or, Advanced Roadside Impairment Driving Enforcement training to determine if a drugs may be a factor affecting a motorist's ability to operate a motor vehicle. However, ARIDE training merely bridges the gap as between NHTSA SFST training and the more stringent DRE protocol training and certification.


Law enforcement disagree that the DRE testing protocol is relatively new and novel. They believe it is a scientifically tested and time honored group of procedures that law enforcement began organizing into a standardized testing protocol in Miami and Los Angeles in the late twentieth century-- but that it has been used by physicians and others as part of the scientific method for over 100 years. See Drug Evaluation and Classification Program: Targeting Hardcore Impaired Drivers (edit: site removed by owner).


The DRE protocol purports to engage a 12-step process ​to discern ​impairment: Breath Alcohol Test, Interview of Arresting Officer, Preliminary Examination and First Pulse, Eye Examinations, Divided Attention Tests,  Vital Signs and Second Pulse, Dark Room Examinations and Ingestion Examination, Muscle Tone (unusually rigid or unusually flaccid), Injections Sites and Third Pulse, Interrogation, Statements, and Other Observations, Opinion of Evaluator, Toxicological Examination. See Overview of the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, by Paul Batcheller et al (edit: site removed by owner).


The DRE tests include some of the standardized field sobriety tests advanced for decades, including the Walk and Turn and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus but add veritcal nystagmus testing, the finger-to-nose test, and the Romberg test. State v. Dennison, 571 N.W.2d 492, 493 n.2 (Iowa 1997)(“The tests included standardized field sobriety tests, a Romberg balance test, a finger-to-the-nose test, and a vertical nystagmus test, as well as recording [of the test subject's]  blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and pupil size”).


“A DRE is an officer who is certified to evaluate whether an individual is under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. A DRE is also trained to determine what type of drug or drugs the individual may have taken.” Dennison, 571 N.W.2d at 493 n.1.


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, for an initial consultation today. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that no attorney-client relationship is established by sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet.

Systematic protocol or junk science? ​Proponents of Drug Recognition Expertise, or, DRE, claim it is a more stringent field sobriety testing protocol than SFST or even ARIDE training in Iowa. Critics argue it is "junk science" intended to mystify juries and introduce unscientific folklore into case law. If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI in Iowa, ​contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889.

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