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Driving, Drugs and the DRE

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Would you trust a police officer to take an accurate measure of your pulse or blood pressure? If you are feeling ill, would you make an appointment with a police officer for a diagnosis? Of course you wouldn’t consult a police officer for a medical evaluation.Yet, police officers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are acting as medical professionals during DUI investigations when drug use is suspected. More troublesome is that the opinions of these officers are being considered by courts to convict drivers.Specifically, these police officers have been calling themselves Drug Recognition Experts or DREs. DREs believe that by using a 12-step evaluation process it can be determined if a driver is under of the influence of drugs in one or more of 7 drug categories.During the 12-step evaluation process, the officer must perform the following physical evaluations:-Check blood pressure;-Check pulse;-Measure size of the pupils;-Check muscle tone;-Check body temperature; and-Check pupil reaction to various lighting conditions.Based on the physical conditions noted and performance of field sobriety tests, the DRE will state if a driver is under the influence of a narcotic analgesic, CNS stimulant, CNS depressant, dissociative anesthetic, hallucinogen, inhalant, cannabis or combination of drugs.To become a DRE, a police officer does not receive formal medical training to perform the various evaluations mentioned above. In fact, it is fellow police instructors who “teach” the DREs how to measure blood pressure, pulse, muscle tone and pupil size. These instructors are not required themselves to have formal medical training. Moreover, the officer is not required to have taken any academic courses concerning the recognition and effects of drugs on the body (that is pharmacology).Is the description of this evaluation process starting to seem bizarre to you? Well, it should seem strange, because improperly trained police officers are making medical determinations that are being used in court to convict drivers.To effectively fight this junk science, proper legal challenges must be asserted to prohibit the DRE evaluation from being used as evidence of DUI. Furthermore, challenges must be made concerning the qualifications of the DRE and concerning errors made during the evaluation process. Otherwise, an innocent driver may lose his or her license and may be spending some time in jail.

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