Los Angeles DUI and Drug Recognition Experts
When people think about driving under the influence offenses they usually focus on drunk driving and impairment caused by alcohol intoxication. However, a significant portion of DUI cases charged are DUI offenses involving drugs. This can include illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and PCP as well as legal prescription medications such as Vicodin or Xanax. Law enforcement officers receive extensive training in recognizing alcohol intoxication in drivers. However, many agencies have realized that the symptoms of drug intoxication may be different and have started to rely on drug recognition expert (“DRE”) officers who are trained specially in recognizing and testing for drug intoxication.
The DRE program was originally started by the Los Angeles Police Department and is now run by the California Highway Patrol. Law enforcement agencies throughout the country have adopted these programs and now employ DRE training and officers.
When a driver is pulled over during a traffic stop, an officer is trained to look for symptoms of alcohol intoxication such as bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech or an odor of alcohol. However, drivers under the influence of drugs may not exhibit these same symptoms. If these drivers have not consumed any alcohol, their breath sample would show a blood alcohol concentration of zero when tested on the officer’s preliminary alcohol sensor (“PAS”) device. There is no breath test device that can measure whether or not a driver has taken drugs. In these cases, a DRE officer will often be called in to assist in the DUI investigation.
The DRE officer is trained in conducting a 12-step evaluation of drivers suspected of driving under the influence of drugs. This DRE officer will first interview the arresting officer and confirm that the driver’s BAC is not consistent with driving under the influence of alcohol. The DRE officer will check the driver’s pulse and will test the driver’s eyes for signs of horizontal gaze nystagmus and vertical gaze nystagmus. These are involuntary jerking movement’s a person’s eyeballs make at certain angles when the person is under the influence. The driver’s pupils will be examined and the officer will check the driver’s nose and mouth for traces of drugs. The driver’s muscle tone will be checked because some drugs cause changes in a person’s muscle tone. The DRE officer may have the driver participate in a series of field sobriety tests designed to measure the driver’s physical coordination and ability to remember and follow instructions.
Because there is no breath test that can measure drug intoxication, the DRE officer will request that the driver submit a blood sample which will be screened for a panel of different drugs.
At trial, the DRE officer will testify about his or her training and about what tests were conducted on the defendant and what ultimately led the officer to conclude that the defendant was under the influence of drugs. In some cases, the signs of impairment noticed by the DRE may have actually have caused by an unrelated medical condition, such as allergies, fatigue, nervousness or injuries following a collision. The defense can challenge the DRE officer’s observations and show how many, if not all, of the symptoms observed have innocent explanations. The defense can also request a blood split order and have a portion of the defendant’s blood sample retested at an independent laboratory.
If you have been charged with a DUI drug offense, it is very important that you meet with a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer immediately. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Attorney Michael Kraut knows how to effectively challenge and cross examine DRE officers and litigate DUI drug cases.
For more information about Los Angeles DUI and drug recognition experts, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.