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DREs: The Special Officers Focused on "Drugged Driving"

Arizona has had some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the U.S. Some of these laws have recently changed to lesson some of the potential penalties that go along with a DUI conviction. However, like many other states, Arizona is experiencing challenges with the number of drivers thought to be operating while under the influence of drugs. One of the main difficulties that for officials is developing a system to test motorists that officers believe are impaired.

Most law enforcement officers have specific training to spot drivers under the influence of alcohol. Field sobriety tests are administered, and a blood test can then determine the amount of alcohol present in a person's bloodstream. When an officer suspects that a motorist has been drugged driving, different procedures must be followed.

Officers with special training must be called in to examine any motorist suspected of being under the influence of drugs. Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) use a comprehensive process of evaluation that gives wide discretion to the officers during their investigations. In Arizona, DREs must go through a three-step training process before being certified, which included written tests as well as work in the field.

DREs may also conduct specific "field sobriety tests", which often focus on how an individual's body reacts to certain stimuli. If an officer feels that a motorist is failing these tests, he or she may order the driver to undergo chemical tests that will disclose the substance that has been consumed.

Each person may have a different reaction to specific drugs, which makes it challenging for the legislature to establish levels of impairment. Because so much power is given to the DRE, it can be difficult for a motorist to prove that he or she was not impaired. It is important to understand all of the available options in these cases, because a conviction for driving under the influence of drugs can carry significant penalties and consequences.

Source: Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety "DRE Program"

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