Drug Recognition Expert

The Texas Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Program website states that the program to train DREs was the result of efforts from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), and various state officials. DREs are commonly employed in a number of driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests in which police officers suspect alleged offenders are under the influence of drugs but are not clear which drugs may be at play, and any person accused of a DWI involving alleged drug use will want to seek the help of a Denton drug recognition expert attorney. 

Using the term expert in the title of drug recognition expert gives individuals greater credence with courts and juries in Texas, but their opinions are not always scientifically sound. Alleged offenders in DWI cases will want to have legal counsel for help fighting the opinions of any DRE that may be used to try and convict them of these offenses.

Drug Recognition Expert Defense Lawyer in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville, Flower Mound, TX

If you are facing DWI charges involving a DRE, contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today for a consultation about your alleged offense in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville, Flower Mound, and surrounding areas of Denton County, Texas.

The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy knows how challenging it can be for the average person to overcome the claims of a DRE but we also know how to identify flaws in the conclusions they draw. Call (940) 222-8004 or contact us online for a free consultation that will allow us to further discuss your case and what we might be able to do to help you in your criminal case.

How People Become Drug Recognition Experts in Texas

Prerequisites For DRE Program include a person having at least two years of experience as a Texas peace officer employed by a state, county, or municipal law enforcement agency, having completed the NHTSA DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing course prior to their application, possessing a reasonable background in impaired driving enforcement, and possessing a documented ability to complete thorough and accurate reports. To be considered for DRE school, a person must submit their completed DRE application, submit a copy of their TCOLE training record (PSR) showing completion of the 24-hour standardized field sobriety testing (SFST) course, provide a copy of their last three DWI reports, obtain the endorsement of two Drug Recognition Experts, and obtain the approval of your agency on the form provided.

All DRE applications are reviewed by members of the Texas Drug Recognition Expert Steering Committee, who make recommendations to the DRE State Coordinator. The training involves the three following phases: 

Academic Training, Phases I & II

This phase will typically be conducted over two consecutive weeks and lasts about 72 hours. It combines the 16-hour Pre-School with the 56-hour DRE School. 

The work includes courses in physiology, vital signs, SFST, and extensive material on all seven categories of the drugs of abuse. Course testing includes an SFST proficiency examination, two major written examinations, and five written quizzes. 

Students must achieve a minimum of 80 percent on the two examinations and also need to demonstrate proficiency in administering an SFST to progress to the certification phase. Academic training will be conducted using creative, participant-centered teaching techniques and hands-on coaching and practice.

Field Certification Phase III

When a person successfully completes the academic portion, they attend field certifications at selected sites. Field certification training requires a student to conduct a minimum of 15 drug influence evaluations, with six as the lead evaluator, while under the supervision of a DRE instructor. Training may take only four days or as many as eight days to complete depending on both the facility and the availability of impaired test subjects.

Certification Knowledge Examination

The Certification Knowledge Examination (CKE) is part of the Certification Phase but is generally administered after field certifications are complete. The exam will be a comprehensive review of the entire course requiring a student to explain DRE processes, observations, and opinions in detailed narrative form. The examination can take four to 10 hours to complete. Two DRE instructors independently grade the exam on-site and must concur that the examination is a pass. 

A student will be told whether they passed or failed before they leave. Those who pass will have their progress log completed and sent to the IACP for certification, and the DRE State Coordinator notifies them when their certification is approved so they can begin conducting enforcement evaluations. Students who fail the CKE must repeat the entire course if they want to seek certification as a DRE.

Drug Recognition Expert main

What Drug Recognition Experts Do

A DRE investigation involves a 12-step checklist known as the DRE Protocol. The drug evaluation and classification program involves:

  1. Breath Alcohol Test
  2. Interview of the Arresting Officer
  3. Preliminary Examination and First Pulse
  4. Eye Examinations
  5. Divided Attention Tests
  6. Vital Signs and Second Pulse
  7. Dark Room Examination of pupil size, nasal and oral cavities
  8. Examination of Muscle Tone
  9. Examination for Injection Sites and Third Pulse
  10. Interview, Statements, and Observations of the Suspect
  11. Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator
  12. Toxicological Examination

DREs are trained to identify seven different drug categories. These include:

  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants — CNS depressants are drugs that slow down the operations of the brain and the body. Examples include alcohol, barbiturates, anti-anxiety tranquilizers such as Valium, Librium, Xanax, Prozac, and Thorazine, gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, and several other antidepressants that include Zoloft, Paxil, and others.
  • CNS Stimulants — CNS stimulants are drugs that accelerate the heart rate, elevate blood pressure, and speed up or overstimulate the body. Examples include cocaine, “crack” cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamine (“crank”).
  • Hallucinogens — Hallucinogens are drugs that cause a person to perceive things differently than they actually are. Examples include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), peyote, psilocybin and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or Ecstasy).
  • Dissociative Anesthetics — Dissociative Anesthetics are drugs that can inhibit pain by cutting off, or disassociating the brain’s perception of pain. Examples may include phencyclidine or phenylcyclohexyl piperidine (PCP), ketamine, and dextromethorphan, which is an active ingredient in certain over-the-counter cold medicines.
  • Narcotic Analgesics — Narcotic analgesics are drugs that relieve pain, induce euphoria, and create mood changes in the user. Examples of narcotic analgesics include opium, codeine, heroin, demerol, darvon, morphine, methadone, Vicodin, and oxycontin.
  • Inhalants — Inhalants are drugs that include a wide variety of breathable substances that produce mind-altering results and effects. Examples of inhalants include Toluene, plastic cement, paint, gasoline, paint thinners, hair sprays, and various anesthetic gases.
  • Cannabis — Cannabis is the scientific name for marijuana. The active ingredient in cannabis is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This category includes cannabinoids and synthetics like Dronabinol.

Problems with DRE Testimony

Because of a growing number of drug-impaired drivers in the United States, the DRE Program has now spread quickly to many other jurisdictions in surrounding states. Whereas the testimony of police officers in Texas DWI cases was once excluded because of a lack of a scientific basis, the DRE certification program allows law enforcement officers to provide legal testimonies from seemingly solid and fact-based foundations, although this is rarely true.  

Many of the initial studies used to back DRE training were heavily biased to favor and support DREs, so the accuracy of their findings can often be called into question. A judge in Texas could prevent a DRE from giving an expert opinion on whether a person was intoxicated if the court believes the DRE protocol either is unsupported by scientific studies and there is a high potential rate of error or the overall factors do not support their reliability.

Denton Drug Recognition Expert Resources

The Drug Whisperer: ‘It happened to me’ — View this WXIA-TV investigation into how innocent people were being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs was a nationwide problem. The article notes that while DRE methodology was validated by multiple studies, most were also funded by the same federal agency pushing the DRE program. It states that independent studies have concluded a DRE’s opinion of drug impairment is not much better than flipping a coin.

Delane v. State, 369 S.W.3d 412 (Tex. App. 2012) — A jury found Brodrick Dechone Delane, also known as Broderick Shun Delane and Shaun Scott, guilty of the felony offense of DWI. He pleaded true to two enhancement allegations that he had twice been previously convicted of felony offenses, and the jury assessed his punishment at confinement for 35 years. Delane contended that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support his conviction and the trial court erred in admitting unreliable and irrelevant scientific evidence, and the Court of Appeals of Texas in Houston for the 1st District reversed and remanded the case after concluding that because Officer Morrison was permitted to provide detailed and extensive testimony regarding Delane’s prescription medications and their potential effects and the testimony was unreliable, it could not conclude with fair assurance that the trial court’s error in admitting his expert testimony did not influence the jury or had but a slight effect on the jury’s finding that Delane committed the offense of DWI.

Find A Denton County Defense Attorney for Drug Recognition Expert Charges | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy

Were you arrested for a DWI based on the opinion of a DRE in Denton County? You should not think that your guilt is automatic and you may have a chance to overcome the supposed expert testimony in court by hiring a skilled criminal defense lawyer.

The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy has handled scores of DWI cases in Texas and knows the best ways to fight charges involving the use of DREs. Contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today at (940) 222-8004 for a consultation about your alleged offense in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville, Flower Mound, and surrounding areas of Denton County, Texas.