DRUG RECOGNITION EXPERT (DRE)

Deputy 1st Class Mark Bridgham, Lincoln County Sheriffs Office, is currently the only law enforcement officer certified in Lincoln County to perform these duties.

A person selected to perform these duties must have a strong background in basic Operating under the Influence (OUI) practices. Officers must also possess skills to detect the more than 3,500 other medications that are legally sold in the United States.

DRE personnel are trained to recognize the 3,500 drugs that are broken down into seven (7) categories. The categories are Central Nervous Depressants, Central Nervous Stimulants, Narcotic Analgesics, Dis-associative Anesthetics, Hallucinogens, Inhalants, and Cannabis. Each of the categories has specific and scientifically known signs and symptoms to identify the drug category that may be present in an impaired operator.
Deputy Mark Bridgham
Deputy 1st Class Mark Bridgham

The program began in the late 70’s and very early 80’s in Los Angeles, California. A small number of officers were frustrated by the fact that there were no known tests available to detect and arrest impaired drivers other than alcohol violators. Many of the offenders were actually impaired on more than one drug. No state had adopted a standardized way to test for anything but alcohol. 

These officers then went to major hospitals and spoke with numerous physicians regarding impairment, signs and symptoms and specialists who were familiar with the drug industry. Together, these people formed a working group who trained and tested officers who dealt with impaired drivers on drugs. The standardized testing became the background for a national movement in Drug Recognition Expert Impairment Training. Officers during the testing phase were routinely identifying correctly a drug category or poly-drug user in over 95% of all contacts. Officers were using a systematic way to evaluate an impaired driver.

From Maine to California, officers now receive some 100 hours of additional training to learn the signs and symptoms of impaired driving. Regardless of the state that you live in, that officer has a twelve (12) steps process that is standardized, systematically, scientifically tested and evaluated process used for accuracy in determining the impairment of the operator of a motor vehicle.

Alcohol has taken a back seat to motor vehicle operators that are impaired. Prescription drug use/misuse has become the leading issue with impaired drivers

DRE personnel are not used for probation checks or pedestrian issues. The DRE is there to assist the contact officer with more specific ways to detect impairment based upon the initial officers’ contact, Field Sobriety Tests, demeanor of the subject and the eventual Breath Sample taken. If the impairment level of the subject does not match the sample taken, the officer may request assistance from a DRE to determine if other drugs, other than alcohol are involved. The DRE report is a supplemental report, and should not affect the overall process that the original officer had with the operator.