There is a new trend in prosecuting drug-related DUI cases. That is the Drug Recognition Expert. The State of Delaware is now occasionally using Drug Recognition Experts in DUI cases. As of the writing of this article, it is unclear what Delaware’s approach to Drug Recognition Experts will be. The purpose of a Drug Recognition Expert is to a) determine whether a suspect is impaired b) determine whether the suspect is impaired because of a medical condition or the use of drugs, and c) If impaired because of drugs, what type of drugs are causing impairment?

Because the Drug recognition Expert performing the examination is a police officer, he needs to go through specialized DRE training. Unfortunately, even with the training, a police officer is simply not qualified to render the opinions that a drug recognition evaluation is designed to produce. Specifically, the DRE tries to determine what category of drugs a suspect has used based on a “Drug Symptomatology Matrix”. Considering that emergency room doctors have difficulty making this determination even after many years of school and training, to expect that a police officer could render a reliable opinion on a consistent basis is unrealistic.

It also begs the question as to whether a drug recognition evaluation is even necessary. As it stands now, an arrest can be made if there is probable cause to believe that a suspect is driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance. This is so whether they are impaired by drugs or alcohol. The Officer can then request a warrant to get a blood draw and test the blood. This evaluation can be done using the same criteria as any other DUI. A drug recognition evaluation doesn’t add anything to the issue of probable cause to believe someone is under the influence and thus subject to a blood test.

Furthermore, in order for a DRE to perform their evaluation, the suspect must be removed from the scene and placed in a controlled environment to perform the necessary tests and the DRE must be brought in as well. The tests themselves take quite some time to perform. Meanwhile, the suspect is detained far longer than necessary in a standard DUI because the drug recognition evaluation is much more extensive and time consuming. Ironically, the last step of 12 in a drug recognition evaluation is a toxicological examination of urine, blood or saliva.

The need for drug recognition examinations is questionable at best. The methods they rely on and the quality of the opinions rendered are based on junk science. A drug recognition “expert” still needs a drug test for the examination to be valid. The police don’t need a drug recognition examination to get a blood test, only probably cause. The rest of it is irrelevant and best left up to medical doctors, not police officers.


  1. Breath Test
  2. Interview of the arresting officer
  3. Preliminary examination and first pulse reading
  4. Eye examination
  5. Divided attention psychophysical tests
  6. Vital signs and second pulse reading
  7. Dark room examinations
  8. Examination for muscle tone
  9. Check for injection sites and third pulse reading
  10. Subject’s statements and other observations
  11. Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator
  12. Toxicological examination of blood, urine or saliva





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