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What Are Massachusetts Drug Recognition Experts Trained to Look For?

Posted on : November 30, 2019, By:  Tom Kokonowski, Esq.
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A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) is a law enforcement officer who is educated in analyzing symptoms of impairment due to drugs, which are generally much more difficult to assess than signs of alcohol impairment.

DRE Protocol: 12 Steps

There are 12 steps in the DRE protocol, however, they are largely subjective and notoriously inaccurate.

1. Breathalyzer Test

This test checks your BAC to determine if you are impaired by alcohol.

2. Interview with the Officer

Upon arriving to the scene, the Drug Recognition Expert will discuss the circumstances surrounding your traffic stop with the officer who pulled you over.

3. Initial Vital Signs and Exam

Your pulse will be taken for the first time and the officer will check to ensure that your behavior is not being caused by a medical condition or injury.

4. Eye Test

The DRE will check your eyes for signs of drug use, including nystagmus, light sensitivity, and dilated or constricted pupils.

5. Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests will be conducted to determine your overall level of impairment. These generally include walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and horizontal gaze nystagmus.

6. Second Vital Signs

The officer will then take your vital signs a second time, including your temperature, blood pressure, and pulse.

7. Dark Room Test

In a low-light area, the DRE will also perform a dark room test to check your pupils for constriction or dilation, as well as your nasal and oral cavities for signs of drugs.

8. Muscle Tone Exam

Some drugs cause muscles to become extremely flaccid, while others cause muscles to become rigid. The police officer will conduct a simple muscle tone test to determine if you are within normal limits.

9. Physical Exam and Third Vital Signs

The officer will usually also conduct a physical exam at the time they take your third and final vital signs to check for evidence of needle marks or injection sites on the arms or between the fingers.

10. Officer Notes

You’ll be asked a number of questions about possible drug and alcohol use, and at this time, the officer will jot down any other observations that have been made.

11. Analysis of Drug Symptoms

Your symptoms will be compared to known signs of drug use to determine if you are intoxicated. Unfortunately, this “science” is mostly still subjective and based on the DRE’s opinions as opposed to facts.

12. Toxicology Tests

You may be asked to submit to a urine, blood, or hair test to check for the presence of drugs or drug metabolites.

Arrested for OUI? Call a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you were charged with OUI, get legal help from a Massachusetts drunk driving lawyer as soon as possible. Call Thomas Kokonowski today for a consultation at 413-585-9200.