examination of sobriety by a policeman

Arrested for DWI? Here’s What You Should Know About the DRE Protocol

When a driver is stopped by police officers for suspicion of DWI, he/she may face a series of tests under the DRE protocol to determine impairment prior to arrest.

What Is DRE Protocol?

Due to rising problems with drunk driving and drug addiction, law enforcement agencies instigated special protocols to deal with DWI. Groups of specially trained police officers known as drug recognition evaluators or drug recognition experts (DRE) are assigned to detect various types of driver impairment from alcohol, marijuana, addictive drugs, prescription drugs, and medical conditions.

DRE officers are trained to recognize signs of driver impairment. If a driver is pulled over for suspicion of DWI, officers follow a 12-step DRE protocol to detect the cause and level of driver impairment. This involves a compilation of tests to determine if DWI arrest is warranted. DRE protocol includes:

Breathalyzer Test

The first step in the DRE protocol is a breathalyzer test taken by police during a roadside stop. If the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, the legal limit, a DRE officer is called to review the test result with the officer.

Driver Examination

A DRE officer examines the driver’s behavior, speech, coordination, pulse rate, and eye movements to rule out neurological disorders. Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) and vertical gaze nystagmus (VGN) tests are done to detect conditions caused by alcohol, inhalants, depressants, marijuana, and dissociative anesthetics.

Field Sobriety Tests

A driver is asked to take four field sobriety tests for impairment of attention and balance. Tests include the Walk and Turn, Finger to the Nose, Romberg Balance, and One Leg Stand. These psychophysical tests are routinely conducted during DWI roadside stops.

Vital Signs and Second Pulse

The DRE protocol also includes a check of the driver’s vital signs, including temperature, blood pressure, and pulse (for the second time). When a driver is arrested and charged with DWI, a DWI attorney often sees vital signs used as evidence to indicate drugs that affect the central nervous system.

Check for Injection Sites and Third Pulse

The DRE protocol involves physical checks for needle marks, signs of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription stimulant, and prescription opioid injections. The officer also checks the driver’s pulse for the third and last time.

Minnesota DWI attorneys handle a large number of cases related to alcohol and drug use. The 12-step DRE protocol plays an important role in the fight against DWI-related injuries and deaths.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.