You were pulled over for a DUI, but your breath test showed no evidence of alcohol in your system. Instead, the police officer arrested you for your driving violations and took you to the station, where another officer assessed you and added another charge: driving under the influence of drugs.
But what if you were not impaired by drugs?
Almost all states, including Georgia, are using a special program certifying certain officers as drug recognition experts, or DRE officers. There is no equivalent of a breath test to detect drugs in a driver’s system, and blood, saliva and urine tests only indicate the presence of drugs that may be several days old – they don’t prove a driver was still impaired by those drugs. So, states are using DRE officers who identify evidence of drug impairment as a tool to enforce drugged driving laws.
However, that doesn’t mean you cannot challenge the findings of a DRE officer if you were arrested for drugged driving.
What are a DRE officer’s qualifications?
Officers in Los Angeles developed the DRE program in the 1970s, and once the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration supported its accuracy, the program spread across the nation. Georgia now has more than 250 DRE officers.
The Georgia Public Safety Training Center developed a 240-hour DRE program to teach officers how to identify drugs and the signs of drug impairment. The officers conduct a 12-step test on drivers suspected of impairment and assess which type of drug is allegedly in the driver’s system. This is followed up with a blood or urine test.
According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia, a “properly trained DRE can successfully identify drug impairment and accurately determine the category of drugs causing impairment.”
Have DRE assessments been found to be faulty?
Critics of the DRE program say it is flawed, as officers’ evaluations can be biased. Studies have found that DRE assessment has low accuracy rates – one study found the DRE process could consider more than half of a group of sober people to be high – and judges have ruled it lacks scientific validation.
Right here in Georgia in 2016, three drivers suspected of marijuana use were arrested for drugged driving by the same DRE officer, but they weren’t prosecuted because video and toxicology evidence didn’t back up the arrests.
If you were arrested for drugged driving, talk to a legal professional about your case. Even so-called “experts” can be wrong, and there are ways to poke holes in their case.