Drug Recognition Expert Evaluation Washington StateDrug Recognition Expert | DRE | Callahan Law, P.S., Inc.

If you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana or drugs, the arresting officer, or another officer trained as a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert), will try to get you to agree to submit to a 12-step evaluation that can take up to an hour. The officer must complete all 12 steps in order for his or her “expert” testimony about the evaluation to be admissible. This evaluation is completely optional and currently there are no penalties for refusing to do the DRE Evaluation. Therefore, you should decline the evaluation as politely as you can.

During this evaluation, the officer, who is not a physician, pharmacologist, toxicologist, ophthalmologist, or even an EMT, will perform a series of tests including:

  • A physical exam of your blood pressure, pulse, muscle tone, temperature, etc.
  • An eye exam in a nearly dark room to test your eyes’ reaction to light, nystagmus, and pupil size
  • Physical balance and divided attention tests, like tilting your head back and counting (in your head) to 30 seconds
  • Questioning about your day and what you did/took before being arrested

Officers trained as DRE’s will look at all the clues they find in each of these steps to attempt to figure out what drug type, if any, is affecting you and if you are indeed impaired. After this evaluation, or if you decline the evaluation, you will be asked to submit to a test of your blood. If you agree, you will be taken to a nearby hospital, or an aid car with EMTs may be called to the scene in order to do a blood draw.

Drug Recognition Expert Marijuana | Drug DUI EvidenceMarijuana DUI | Drug DUI | DRE | Callahan Law, P.S., Inc.

When an officer does a DRE Evaluation for suspicion of marijuana or drug use, they will look for a number of clues indicating impairment. One of the clues of marijuana use is a lack of Horizontal or Vertical Gaze Nystagmus (HGN/VGN), which is an involuntary “bouncing” of the eye when looking to the side, up, or down that indicates alcohol consumption or consumption of a central nervous system depressant. Instead, the eyes of a person who has consumed marijuana may lack convergence—meaning the individual is unable to move both eyes toward the center (their nose bridge) at the same time. Another clue for marijuana is elevated pulse and blood pressure. Typically, there will also be a distorted perception of time, so counting to 30 seconds accurately can be difficult. Since these clues may also indicate various other drug types, DRE officers are trained to make their assessments based on the totality of clues that they find.

DRE officers must keep a “rolling log” of all of their DRE evaluations in order to keep their certification as a DRE. The log keeps track of how well the DRE is able to correctly identify the category of drug used, as validated or invalidated by the blood analysis.

If you’re facing charges for a marijuana DUI or a Drug DUI in Washington State, contact a Washington DUI defense lawyer at Callahan Law, P.S., Inc. today.

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