What Are the Steps of a Drug Influence Evaluation (DIE)?

  • DWI

In the State of New Jersey, if you are charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated) after a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) has evaluated you for impairment by drugs, you must be advised and represented by New Jersey DWI attorney Steven W. Hernandez.

What is a DRE’s procedure for evaluating a driver who is suspected of drugged driving? How important will a DRE’s assessment be if you are charged with DWI? How will New Jersey DWI lawyer Steven W. Hernandez challenge a DRE’s findings?

You are about to read a brief description of the 12-step evaluation process used by Drug Recognition Experts, law enforcement officers who have received special training to identify drivers who are impaired by drugs.

Depending on a DRE’s evaluation, you may be charged with DWI and/or a related drug or driving charge. If that happens, you’ll need a DWI attorney’s advice and representation.

What Is the Purpose of the DRE Evaluation Process?

The procedures used by a DRE constitute a standardized, systematic way to examine a driver to determine:

  1. if the driver is impaired
  2. if so, why the driver is impaired
  3. if impaired by drugs, what category of drugs or combination of drugs

The evaluation process is standardized and systematic. It’s based on observable indications that are proven, reliable signs of impairment by drugs. A DRE’s evaluation is done in the same standardized way by each DRE for every DWI suspect, as far as possible.

What Is the DRE 12-Step Protocol?

DREs use the following 12-step procedure to evaluate DWI suspects. The first two steps are:

  1. An arresting officer measures a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level with a breathalyzer to determine if the driver’s impairment matches the results. If breathalyzer results don’t explain the impairment, the officer may ask for a DRE’s evaluation.
  2. When a DRE arrives, he or she reviews the breathalyzer exam results and discusses the matter with the first officer. A DRE will ask the officer about the driver’s appearance, behavior, and why the driver was stopped by the officer.

Step Three: The Preliminary Examination

Step Three is a preliminary exam to find out if the driver is injured or is impaired by another medical condition and not by drugs. The DRE asks a standard set of questions about the driver’s medical condition and recent intake of alcohol, food, and drugs, including prescription drugs.

The DRE considers the driver’s coordination, speech, attitude, breath, and facial appearance. The DRE examines the suspect’s pupils to see if they’re the same size and looks for horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) to see if the subject’s eyes follow a moving stimulus and track equally.

The driver’s pulse is taken for the first of what may be three times.

If a DRE believes that a driver may be experiencing a significant or serious medical condition, that DRE will summon medical help immediately, but should the DRE conclude that the driver’s condition is related to drugs, the DRE moves to the next step of the evaluation process.

Steps Four Through Six

In Step Four, a DRE further examines the driver for HGN, for vertical gaze nystagmus (VGN), and to determine if the driver’s eyes converge. In Step Five, a DRE determines if a suspect can pass four psychophysical tests:

  1. the One Leg Stand
  2. the Walk and Turn
  3. the Modified Romberg Balance test
  4. the Finger to Nose test

In Step Six, a DRE takes the driver’s temperature, blood pressure, and again measures the driver’s pulse.

Steps Seven Through Nine

In Step Seven, a DRE determines the size of the driver’s pupils in three different lighting conditions with a pupilometer device. A pupilometer helps the DRE determine if the driver’s pupils are constricted, dilated, or normal.

In Step Eight, the driver’s muscle tone is examined by the DRE for indications of drug usage. Some drugs make the muscles flaccid and loose. Others can make the muscles seem rigid.

In Step Nine, the driver’s arms and other areas may be examined for signs of needle marks, which can indicate recent drug usage. The driver’s pulse is also taken for a third time in Step Nine.

Steps Ten Through Twelve

In Step Ten, a DRE reads the driver his or her Miranda rights if those rights have not been read previously. The DRE also asks a standardized list of questions about the driver’s drug usage.

In Step Eleven, as the evaluation concludes, the DRE considers all of the previous steps to determine whether the driver was driving while impaired by drugs. If the driver was impaired in the DRE’s opinion, the DRE usually indicates what type of drug or drugs were involved.

In Step Twelve, the driver is referred for a toxicological exam or exams to provide more admissible, scientific evidence in support of the DRE’s finding and the criminal charge or charges.

What Else Should You Know About DRE Evaluations?

DREs use the same tests that have been used – in less formal or standardized ways – to evaluate impairment for decades. A DRE’s findings and opinions may be difficult to challenge if you are charged with DWI – unless your defense attorney is also a Drug Recognition Expert.

New Jersey DWI attorney Steven W. Hernandez is a Drug Recognition Expert who has completed the Drug Evaluation and Classification training program offered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

There is plenty of room for mistakes in the 12-step evaluation process. DWI defense attorney and DRE Steven W. Hernandez knows how those mistakes are made and knows how to challenge a DREs evaluation effectively on your behalf.

If you are charged with drug-related DWI on the basis of a DRE’s 12-step evaluation, get the legal help you need, and contact New Jersey DWI lawyer Steven W. Hernandez as quickly as possible.

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Steven W. Hernandez, Board-Certified DUI Attorney