What is an Illinois Drug Recognition Expert?

You go over to a friend's house for dinner and enjoy two glasses of wine. You wait an hour or so, and eat dessert. After dessert, you do not feel buzzed at all, and you enjoy smoking some marijuana and a small amount of another controlled substance with your friends. After checking in with yourself once again, you determine that you are perfectly fine to drive your car home.

While driving down the highway, you hear police sirens and look around to see if any other drivers are speeding, when you realize the Illinois police officer is trying to pull you over. How will an officer determine whether you were driving under the influence of drugs in Illinois? You used alcohol, marijuana, and Vicodin (a controlled substance). How will the police decide whether or not to charge you with driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC)?

The Illinois Drug Recognition Expert Program (DRE)

A drug recognition evaluator, or Illinois drug recognition expert, is a police officer with specialized training. These officers know how to recognize drivers who are impaired by drugs other than alcohol or in addition to alcohol. The Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) program is a joint effort between the International Drug Evaluation and Classification program with the support of the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The DEC program trains police officers as well as toxicologists and prosecutors on the DRE drug categories and processes.

How Does a DRE Officer Make a Determinations?

A DRE officer will conduct a diagnostic examination of an arrested person who is suspected of drug-impaired driving. The DRE evaluation typically happens at a police intake center, precinct, or troop center. These environments are controlled and can vary based on where the police take the suspect after the arrest. Usually, the DRE officer is not the arresting officer but is requested after the arrest.

The evaluation typically takes about an hour to complete. During the assessment, the DRE will evaluate the suspect's behavior and appearance. They will also evaluate the suspect's vital signs, automatic reactions, and responses. The DRE will also administer psychophysical tests.
Note: These tests have not been certified by NHTSA like the alcohol field sobriety tests which the Courts routinely rely upon from alcohol related DUIs.

After they conduct their detailed evaluation of the suspect, they will form an expert opinion based on the following three factors:

  • Is the suspect impaired? If the suspect is impaired, can he or she operate a vehicle safely?
  • Is the suspect's impairment due to illness, injury, or a medical complication? If not, is it due to the use of drugs?
  • What drug category or categories did the suspect most likely use?

If You are Facing a Drug Charge in Illinois, We are Here to Help

DRE officers might have specialized training, but that does not mean they never make mistakes or that the tests they use are valid. While tests for driving under the influence of alcohol have been well studied, tests for driving under the influence of drugs or marijuana are relatively new and not as trustworthy.

In order to ensure your rights are protected after an arrest, you need an experienced Cook County aggravated DUID criminal defense attorney. If you face marijuana-related drug charges in Kane, Lake, Cook, or Dupage county, fill out our online form for an initial consultation.

(image courtesy of samuele-errico-piccarini)

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