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How Drug Recognition Experts evaluate impairment in Florida

On Behalf of | Sep 23, 2022 | Blog, Drug Charges

Most Florida drivers know how authorities detect alcohol in the system when they pull someone over. This can lead to a false sense of security when getting behind the wheel – if you didn’t drink, you’re in the clear, right?

Driving under the influence doesn’t necessarily mean drinking though. Drivers could be under the influence of a myriad of other things, such as prescription drugs or marijuana.

How do authorities test for drugs?

The Los Angeles Police Department first used drug recognition experts – known as DREs – starting in the 1970s. DRE officers are trained to recognize impairment in drivers, specifically related to drug use.

The exam from a DRE officer will include 12 assessments to determine if the suspected driver is impaired and, if so, if the impairment is due to drug use. The examination can also determine what category of drugs the driver used.

What goes into the exam?

DRE officers will start by interviewing arresting officers about the circumstances around the arrest, including the officer’s observation of the driver. They’ll also ask the officer if they found any supporting evidence – pipes, baggies, etc.

However, DREs don’t just take the word of the arresting officer. In addition to talking to the suspect, DREs will also perform an exam that includes:

  • An eye exam
  • Coordination tests
  • Dark room examinations
  • Physical examination, looking at muscle tone or visible signs of drug use

Findings and additional steps

DREs are trained to recognize impairments due to legal and illegal drugs. If they suspect illegal drug use, they will usually order the suspect to take a blood or urine drug test.

This will also confirm any statements made by the suspect, such as if they take antidepressants or other medication that can influence the exam the DREs conducted. However, it’s important to know your rights before agreeing to any tests or examinations.