Colorado traffic officers and other law enforcement officials are generally trained to recognize the signs of alcohol intoxication among drivers. However, identifying when a motorist may be under the influence of marijuana and/or other drugs can be far trickier, particularly considering that different drugs can impact people in different ways.
In an effort to help cops better identify when motorists may be high, stoned or impaired by drugs, U.S. transportation safety regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have developed the drug recognition expert (DRE) program. While this program has been operational at a national level since the 1970s, it was initiated in Colorado in 1987.
With the legalization of pot in Colorado, the DRE program has become far more of a central focus among Colorado law enforcement officials. Taking a closer look at the role of DREs in Colorado marijuana DUIs, this blog series will point out some crucial facts to know about drug recognition experts and their roles in DUI stops/after DUI arrests.
While the info herein is fascinating and important, contact the trusted Adams County and Boulder DUI attorneys at Peter Loyd Weber & Associates when you need the best defense against drugged and/or drunk driving charges.
Colorado Marijuana DUIs & Drug Recognition Experts: Here’s What You Should Know
Fact 1 – DREs are responsible for making three determinations.
The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) has put together a comprehensive report on drug recognition experts and their role in arresting motorists for drug-related DUIs. According to this report, DREs are responsible for evaluating the following:
- Whether a motorist’s impairment is consistent with his blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
- Whether a motorist is under the influence of drugs, rather than suffering from a medical condition that necessitates emergency medical treatment
- The specific category of drugs that is impacting the driver (if drug impairment is suspected).
It’s important to note that step 2 above is among the more crucial determinations drug recognition experts have to make, as many serious medical conditions, including the following, are just a few of those that can mimic the signs of drug impairment:
- Hypoglycemia related to uncontrolled diabetes
- Multiple sclerosis
Fact 2 – DREs use a 12-step process for evaluating potential drug impairment among drivers.
As the NDAA explains, the following are the 12 steps that drug recognition experts use “in order to reach an opinion that the individual is under the influence of a specific category (or categories) of drugs.”
- Conducting BAC testing on the driver
- Interviewing the arresting officer (if this officer is different from the DRE)
- Conducting a preliminary examination of the driver
- Examining the driver’s eyes
- Conducting divided attention tests
- Examining the driver’s vital signs
- Examining the driver’s pupil size, as well as nasal and oral cavities
- Examining the driver’s muscle tone
- Looking for possible drug injection sites
- Talking to/interrogating the driver
- Starting to develop an opinion regarding the driver’s potential drug intoxication
- Obtaining a urine and/or blood sample for subsequent analysis.
The NDAA has also noted that:
- A final determination won’t (or should not) be made until all of the above steps have been completed.
- All DREs in the U.S. should be using the above standard procedure on all suspects.
For some more important facts about Colorado marijuana DUIs and drug recognition experts, don’t miss the second and third parts of this blog series. They will be published soon.
Adams County and Boulder DUI Attorneys at Peter Loyd Weber & Associates
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