If you get arrested by a DRE for DUI are you really screwed?

An article came out over the weekend discussing the Seattle Police Departments Drug Recognition Enforcement Program and the Officers that participate and ultimately become a DRE. In fact the title of the article was, “Impaired driver beware: You’re not fooling police.” So this raises the question. If you get arrested for a DUI by a DRE officer are you really screwed like the Seattle Times article suggests?

In my opinion yes and no. Yes DRE officers have specialized training when it comes to detection of drugs, and other substances that can affect a persons ability to drive. So if you get stopped and you’re under the influence of marijuana or another other substance a DRE will be more capable of identifying possible signs of impairment and in some cases may even be familiar with the type of drug and what side effects it may case. These are things that sometimes a regular patrol beat officer who has not gone through that extensive training may not be as familiar with.

For example I had a Seattle DUI case about 6 years. Man that seems like a long time. But my client was arrested for Seattle DUI for being under the influence of a muscle relaxer and for being impaired by alcohol. However the Officer first took my client for a breath test. The results were extremely low. Like .02 or something. Then he decided to take her to a hospital for a blood draw. The results came back there was a certain muscle relaxer in my clients system.

Well a Seattle Municipal Court Judge suppressed that blood test because there was not a reasonable belief of drugs in my clients system. Especially when the Officer was not a DRE. He testified he was not familiar with the type of drug my client said she took, and he testified he thought she was impaired by alcohol and that is why he took my client for the breath test.

So I guess there can be a difference in experience when it comes to a DRE and a non DRE. However like all professions there are good ones and there are bad ones. And in my career I have definitely represented clients who were arrested by DRE’s that did not impress me with their quality of work, and their testimony.

I guess in the end it really depends on who you get arrested by. Whether the Officer did a thorough investigation, administered all the FSTs correctly, and documented all the observations they made can mean the difference between beating a DUI charge and not. Even it when it comes to a DRE officer, unlike what the Seattle Times article suggests they are just as prone to make mistakes as anybody else. You’re not dealing with a DUI Robocop.