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The role of drug recognition experts in a DWI with drugs

Not every DWI stop that takes place involves alcohol. Even taking medications prescribed by your doctor can result in an arrest for driving while intoxicated with drugs (DWI Drugs). However, as you can imagine, determining whether drugs impair an individual can be problematic.

As a result, law enforcement agencies across the country and here in Arkansas may use a 12-step protocol created to help police officers make this determination. The protocol attempts to determine whether a medical condition or drugs allegedly impair a driver. If a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) suspects drugs, it supposedly helps identify what types of drugs the driver may have used. Ordinarily, only certain officers in a department take the training necessary to serve as a DRE.

How does the protocol work?

You probably already know that when a police officer suspects impairment, he or she will request that you submit to a breath test, which technically constitutes the first step of the 12-step protocol. If that breath test does not indicate that you are impaired, but the officer still believes he or she has enough other evidence to establish probable cause for an arrest, you could still end up under arrest for DWI.

The officer will then request that a DRE conduct an evaluation to determine whether you are impaired by drugs through the following steps:

  • The officer discusses the situation with the arresting officer by asking questions regarding your driving prior to the traffic stop, your appearance and your behavior.
  • The officer will then examine you to determine whether you suffer from a medical condition that mimics impairment. During this exam, the officer will also focus on your speech, pupils, behavior and other indicators of possible impairment. The DRE also takes your pulse at this time.
  • The officer will then perform horizontal gaze nystagmus, lack of convergence and vertical gaze nystagmus tests on your eyes.
  • The officer then performs the one-leg stand test, the finger to nose test, the walk and turn test and other balance tests.
  • The officer will take your second pulse, blood pressure and temperature.
  • The officer will then test whether your pupils are normal, constricted or dilated in various lighting.
  • The officer then checks your body for rigid or flaccid muscles since your muscles supposedly act differently under the influence of different drugs.
  • The officer examines your body for injection sites since many people take drugs in this manner. The DRE takes your pulse once again.
  • Only after all of the previous steps are complete will the officer read you the Miranda warning and ask you questions regarding drug use.
  • The officer then renders an opinion regarding whether you are impaired.

Finally, the officer requests that you provide a blood, urine or saliva sample to be tested.

Sounds good, but does it really work?

If you ask law enforcement officials that question, they will more than likely say that this protocol does work. However, as is the case with anything that police officers do, the results are only as good as the DRE conducting the examination. Most police officers have no medical training outside of basic life-saving techniques. Diagnosing a medical condition may seem outside of an officer's purview.

These are just a couple of the questions to ask in connection with an arrest for DWI Drugs. As you can see, challenging the charges could quickly become complex. It would probably be to your benefit to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as you possibly can after being accused of driving under the influence of drugs in order to protect your rights.

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