Atlanta, GA- When police pull a driver over they suspect is under the influence, they must be able to prove that individual is impaired. An officer has a number of methods by which they can obtain the “reasonable suspicion” they need to place a driver under arrest. If the driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs, law enforcement will conduct a battery of tests before they can charge the driver.
Law enforcement agencies in forty-five states use Drug Recognition Experts to determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs. Since it takes days and often weeks to get the results of a blood test, an officer needs sufficient proof of intoxication to charge the driver. So many law enforcement agencies in 45 states depend on Drug Recognition Experts; officers who are specially trained to detect the signs of drug use.
Drug Recognition Experts must be certified, and use a 12-step process to determine if a driver is impaired. The process as outlined by the International Drug Evaluation and Classification Program is as follows:
Step 1: Breathalyzer:
The majority of DUI stops and arrests are alcohol-related and to rule this out police will ask you to submit to a breathalyzer. If a driver registers a low blood alcohol level, below the legal threshold of .08, but performed poorly in field sobriety tests, an officer will most likely conclude the driver is on drugs. You will then be subjected to a more tests.
You can refuse a breathalyzer but that has different consequences. Read: Should I Submit to a Breathalyzer?
Step 2: Interview with the officer:
The DRE will interview the arresting officer so they can get the details of your arrest. They will ask what you said, if you were belligerent or incoherent. The might ask the officer if they smelled marijuana or
Step 3: Preliminary Examination and First Pulse:
This a initial physical exam to determine if the suspect has any physical or psychological issues which could make the individual appear to be impaired. Drugs like marijuana and methamphetamines affect your heart rate and body temperature so the officer will check your pulse and take your temperature. This is the first of three pulse readings to account for nervousness. The DRE will also observe your behavior, speech, face, breath and ask you about your food consumption, what drugs you have taken and how much, if any, you have had to drink.
Step 4: Eye Exam:
After the physical exam, the DRE will conduct an eye exam; this is the test where they ask you to follow the movements of an object with your eyes. There are two tests, the vertical gaze nystagmus and the horizontal gaze nystagmus.
Eye tests can detect drug use because there are certain involuntary movements the eyes make when an individual has used drugs or alcohol. These are unconscious movements which cannot be controlled.
Step 5: Divided Attention Test:
DRE administer four physical tests: the Romberg Balance, the Walk and Turn, the One Leg Stand, and the Finger to Nose tests. These tests will determine if an individual’s motor or divided attention skills are impaired.
Step 6: Second Pulse and Vital Signs:
The DRE will check your pulse and vital signs again.
Step 7: Dark Room Examination:
The DRE will place you in a dark room to check the affects three different levels of light have on your pupils. Some drugs make the pupils dilate while others cause the pupils to contract. They will also check oral and nasal cavities for signs of drug use.
Step 8: Muscle Rigidity
Certain drugs cause an individual to tense up their muscles so the DRE will “massage” your arms legs, and shoulders for muscle tension.
Step 9: Third pulse and check for injection site
The DRE will take you pulse for the third time and will check the suspects body for needle marks and injection sites.
Step 10: Questioning
At this stage, the DRE will already have a good idea whether an individual is intoxicated or not. They will likely Mirandize the suspect and will continue to question them about their drug or alcohol use.
Step 11: DRE Evaluation:
Once the DRE has evaluated the suspect, they will make their final determination if they should be charged with driving under the influence of drugs, and indicate which drug or drugs.
Step 12: Chemical Tests
At this point you will be asked to submit a sample of blood or urine to be tested for drugs. And you will likely be spending the next few hours in jail until you can post bond.