Subscribe to LexTalk to stay on top of today’s legal issue and trends.
Catapult Your Career |
Industry Insights & Trends |
Product Training & Tips
In California, one of the most pervasive DUI crimes is DUI with drugs in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e). Each year, DUI drug offenses make up an increasing portion of the total DUI crimes committed. Law enforcement agencies have come to realize that drivers under the influence of drugs may look and act differently than drivers who are drunk. In order to detect and investigate drivers who may be under the influence of drugs, law enforcement agencies use special officers who have been trained as drug recognition experts (“DREs”) in order to assist and handle DUI drug arrests.
The DRE program was developed in Southern California by the Los Angeles Police Department. Currently, the California Highway Patrol handles DRE training. Officers from around the country come to train with the CHP to gain DRE certification.
All officers are trained in recognizing the symptoms of drunk drivers, including drivers who have bloodshot and watery eyes, those who slur their words while speaking and those who have a strong odor of alcohol coming from their person. Drivers who have been taking drugs will often exhibit very different physical symptoms. In many cases, how a driver acts and appears while on drugs will depend heavily on the drug that has been taken, i.e. whether it is a stimulant, opiate or hallucinogen.
When an officer makes a traffic stop, he or she may believe the driver is impaired but may quickly rule out alcohol intoxication. In many cases, the driver will voluntarily agree to take a breath test on the officer’s Preliminary Alcohol Sensor (“PAS”) device and the results of the test will show a blood alcohol concentration of zero. Currently, there is no breath test to measure whether or not a driver has been taking drugs. However, the driver may perform very poorly on the field sobriety tests and may appear to be under the influence of an intoxicating drug. In these circumstances, the officer may request that a DRE officer come to the scene to evaluate the driver. Alternatively, the officer may arrest the driver on suspicion of driving under the influence and would then take the driver to the police station where he or she would be evaluated by a DRE officer.
The officer would conduct a thorough 12-step evaluation of the driver to determine whether or not the driver is under the influence of drugs. The officer will measure and monitor the driver’s vital signs, will examine his or her eyeballs for both horizontal and vertical gaze nystagmus and will be looking for obvious signs of drug use, such as the presence of drug residue around a person’s nostrils or mouth. The DRE officer will also examine the driver’s pupil size and muscle tone, both of which can be affected by drug use.
If the defendant is charged with driving under the influence of drugs, the DRE officer will be called as a witness to testify at trial. The officer will describe his or her training and experience and will discuss the evaluation performed on the defendant and what ultimately led the officer to conclude that the defendant was under the influence of drugs.