Scotts Bluff County - Sheriff's Office

Drug Recognition Evaluator

Nebraska DRE seal

In an effort to remove drug impaired drivers from the roadway the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff's Office utilizes Drug Recognition Experts as part of the Patrol Division. A Drug Recognition Expert or Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) is a law enforcement officer trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) originated the program in the early 1970s. Back then LAPD officers noticed that many of the individuals arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) had very low or zero alcohol concentrations. The officers reasonably suspected that the arrestees were under the influence of drugs, but lacked the knowledge and skills to support their suspicions.

In response, two LAPD sergeants collaborated with various medical doctors, research psychologists, and other medical professionals to develop a simple, standardized procedure for recognizing drug influence and impairment. Their efforts culminated in the development of a multi-step protocol and the first DRE program. The LAPD formally recognized the program in 1979.

The LAPD Drug Recognition Expert program attracted the National Highway Traffic safety Association's (NHTSA) attention in the early 1980s. The two agencies collaborated to develop a standardized DRE protocol, which led to the development of the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program. During the ensuing years, NHTSA and various other agencies and research groups examined the Drug Evaluation and Classification program. Their studies demonstrated that a properly trained DRE can successfully identify drug impairment and accurately determine the category of drugs causing such impairment.

In 1987, NHTSA initiated Drug Evaluation and Classification pilot programs in Arizona, Colorado, New York and Virginia. The states of Utah, California, and Indiana were added in 1988. Beginning in 1989, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and NHTSA expanded the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program across the country. Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia, three branches of the military, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and several countries around the world participate in the DEC Program.

What DRE's do:
A DRE conducts a detailed, diagnostic examination of persons arrested or suspected of drug-impaired driving or similar offenses. Based on the results of the drug evaluation, the DRE forms an expert opinion on the following:

  • Is the person impaired? If so, is the person able to operate a vehicle safely? If the DRE concludes that the person is impaired...
  • Is the impairment due to an injury, illness or other medical complication, or is it drug-related? If the impairment is due to drugs...
  • Which category or combination of categories of drugs is the most likely source of the impairment?

DRE's conduct their evaluations in a controlled environment, typically at police precincts, intake centers, troop headquarters or other locations where impaired drivers are transported after arrest. The drug evaluation is not normally done at roadside and is typically a post-arrest procedure.

In some cases, the person evaluated will be a driver the DRE personally arrested. In many cases, however, the DRE will be called upon to conduct the evaluation after the driver was arrested by another officer. The DRE is requested to assist in the investigation because of his special expertise and skills in identifying drug impairment.

DRE's are also commonly used to teach other law enforcement officers in the field of drug recognition due to the great amount of knowledge about drugs (legal and illegal) and the effect of drug on the human body.

Updated: 2010.04.30 - 11:00 MDT