Drug Recognition Experts on Patrol in Delaware

Dover –  A new crackdown on impaired driving in Delaware will start June 26th.  Delaware’s twelve drug recognition expert officers (DRE) statewide will be focused on removing drug impaired drivers from behind the wheel.  They will also be on call to assist with suspected drug impaired drivers stopped by non DRE officers.

A DRE is a police officer trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.  The DRE officer may be called to a DUI stop if a driver has failed the standardized field sobriety tests but the driver does not have a measurable breath alcohol concentration.  The DRE can perform a battery of tests to determine if other drugs may be causing the impairment. All DRE officers can work statewide and can be called out to any DUI stop if needed.

In Delaware, impaired driving includes driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, both illicit and prescription.  Many drivers are unaware they can be charged with DUI if they drive while under the influence of prescription drugs.  While these drugs are legal and prescribed by doctors to address legitimate medical issues, drivers should heed the labels that warn users not to operate vehicles or heavy machinery after consumption.  These legally prescribed drugs can and will affect one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Some drugs, such as anti-anxiety drugs, can dull alertness and slow reaction time while others, such as stimulants, encourage risk-taking and impair the ability of the driver to judge distances.  The most common prescription drugs found in the offending driver’s system are Codeine, Xanax, Valium, Percocet, Nembutol Ambien, and many cough syrups.

Delaware DRE officers come from DSP, Newark PD, University of Delaware PD, and Rehoboth Beach PD. There are currently more than 6,300 active DREs in the United States.  There are also more than 500 in Canada.  Other countries are also starting to train DREs, including China – 2, Australia – 1, Germany – 1, and the Virgin Islands – 1.

The penalties for a DUI are the same regardless if caused by alcohol or drugs.  Penalties for a first time DUI conviction include loss of license, possible 6 months jail time, $500 to $1,500 in fines, and mandatory participation in an alcohol/drug education and/or treatment program as well as mandatory ignition interlock device.  The costs associated with a first time DUI can amount to approximately $6,300.00.  Subsequent DUI convictions include mandatory jail time and higher fines.

The DRE program is coordinated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) through the International Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) program, with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  More information about the DRE program can be found at http://www.decp.org/.