Drug Recognition Experts



One of the newer police tactics used in DUI Drug Cases is the use of officers trained as "Drug Recognition Experts." It is the latest in junk science used to justify arresting someone for DUI Drugs or DUI Prescription Drugs.  If you have been arrested for DUI-Drugs, contact the Law Offices of Richard Lawson today.  Richard is a former Georgia prosecutor with over 20 years of experience.  Check out his stellar reviews on Avvo.  


A police officer comes upon an accident and believes the at-fault driver is under the influence of drugs (whether legally prescribed or illegally obtained). Another example is when a person is pulled over for an ordinary traffic violation, and the officer believes they are disoriented or manifesting symptoms of drug use. Or, if a person is distraught after an accident, and they are found to be in possession of their legally prescribed anti-depressant medications.


Police officers trained as so-called drug recognition experts make snap judgments that a person is less safe to drive based on the consumption of drugs. These judgments are based on several DAYS of training based on applying symptoms and observations to charts created by flawed studies. In the only controlled studies applying these techniques, trained DRE police officers were only slightly better than 50-50 in determining whether a person was on a nervous system depressant to the extent that they were less safe to drive. Better put, they were slightly better than tossing a coin. False positive results were more than 30%!!

That should surprise no one. Medical doctors go through four years of medical school, a residency for three or four years, hundreds of hours of post-medical school training to learn to detect drug usage and impairment. Police officers take 1-2 weeks of classes taught by other police officers, who are trained in flawed techniques.


DRE Officers are considered the gold standard insofar as training is concerned. In court, prosecutors present those officers as experts fully trained to not only detect subjects under the influence of drugs, but to also tell a jury what drug the person is taking.

How Can a Police Officer Determine Drug Usage and Drug Impairment?

The idea behind DRE testing is that a police officer can be trained to determine whether a person is under the influence of drugs by having the suspect perform a series of physical tests; while at the same time being subjected to observations.

Like the junk science used to "justify" field sobriety testing, DRE predictions of impairment are entirely inaccurate and fail to take into consideration the therapeutic effect of a drug versus the intoxicating effect.

There have been two government studies published that help create the DRE training; one in 1996, and one in 1998. I will not explain here the concepts of probability and statistics. However, it is accepted that for a study to be accurate, it must have a sensitivity standard and specificity standard of 90%. Good medicine requires it.

In the two published studies, the DRE trained officer was able to achieve a sensitivity rating of 57% and specificity of 71%, at best.

In fact, in one study, 4 out of 10 people given placebos were found to be impaired by the DRE. In spite of this reality, the DRE officer (who has 7-14 days of classroom training) completely believes that he or she can determine drug impairment. However, these same officers are never told in their training that at best they may have a 30-40% false positive variance.

The DRE is fully trained to report what he or she sees and "diagnose" the person is under the influence of drugs. It is ridiculous. These officers can persuade juries because, like all true believers, 50% of DRE training is used to convince the officer he/she knows what they are saying. It is a complete and total lie. Even medical doctors do not speak in terms of beyond a reasonable doubt. They may give an opinion, but would never diagnose someone without blood testing. However, police officers testify that based on their training, they can determine impairment.


Drugs are not like alcohol. The amount of drug that is therapeutic and impairing is different in every individual. That is why people take medication under the care of a doctor, not their police officer next-door neighbor.

The police officer makes an observation without a baseline or medical history. The officer cannot take into consideration how the medication affects a person at different levels. The DRE also cannot take into consideration whether a person has become immune to the medications he or she is taking.

Manifestations of a person who need medication (that is a person who is ill) can mimic the alleged impairment of the medication. In fact, being in pain or suffering from depression can cause a greater driving impairment than a person taking their antidepressants or pain relievers correctly. That is what medical SCIENCE teaches us.

However, when a police officer pulls someone over and sees medication in their car, he immediately assumes impairment; without scientific evidence to support the contention.


The best defense in a DUI Drugs case or DUI Prescription Drugs case is to fight junk science with actual science. At the Law Offices of Richard Lawson, we never concede the officer has even a remote understanding of the signs and manifestations of drug impairment. We challenge the assumptions of the DRE and the legitimacy of their training. We also have real medical doctors who can be called as expert witnesses. These doctors can rebut the officer's conclusions and offer medical reasons why a person's actual condition could mimic impairment.


Never plead guilty to DUI Drugs or DUI Prescription Drugs unless a qualified GEORGIA DUI LAWYER reviews all of the evidence.  Let our GEORGIA DUI ATTORNEYS and experts draw our conclusions before entering a guilty plea. We are here to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Never forget that even in a DUI DRUGS case, you only have thirty days to file your appeal, or you may lose your license to drive in Georgia for up to one year.  Contact us now for a free consultation.  

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At the Law Office of Richard S. Lawson, we have offices conveniently located throughout metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If we do not have a convenient office, we will come to you. We practice throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. If your case is in an area we do not serve, we will find you an attorney in your area free of charge. Our office is part of a State-wide network of Georgia DUI Lawyers. Contact us 24/7 for immediate legal help. Our attorneys are standing by. Your DUI Case will not defend itself. Your Best Georgia DUI Defense Begins Here!