October 5, 2020
Carol Stream police Sgt. Brian Cluever pulls over a motorist in
Carol Stream on Dec. 7, 2017. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)
With the legalization of medicinal marijuana in 33 states (plus D.C.) and 11 states (plus D.C.) where recreational marijuana is legal, it has become necessary for police to be able to evaluate individuals based on suspicion of impaired driving due to drug use. A Drug recognition expert or drug recognition evaluator (DRE) is a police officer trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.
The Los Angeles Police Department originated the program in the early 1970s, when LAPD officers noticed that many of the individuals arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) had very low or zero alcohol concentrations. The officers reasonably suspected that the arrestees were under the influence of drugs but lacked the knowledge and skills to support their suspicions. In response, two LAPD sergeants collaborated with various medical doctors, research psychologists, and other medical professionals to develop a simple, standardized procedure for recognizing drug influence and impairment. Their efforts culminated in the development of a multi-step protocol and the first DRE program. The LAPD formally recognized the program in 1979.
The LAPD DRE program attracted NHTSA’s attention in the early 1980s. The two agencies collaborated to develop a standardized DRE protocol, which led to the development of the DEC Program. During the ensuing years, NHTSA and various other agencies and research groups examined the DEC Program. Their studies demonstrated that a properly trained DRE can successfully identify drug impairment and accurately determine the category of drugs causing such impairment.
How Do Police Determine Whether a Driver Is Under the Influence?