DRE stands for drug recognition expert. It is an attempt by Vermont law enforcement to combat the growing concern of individuals driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, which is otherwise known as Driving While High (DWH). Here is how it works.
A motorist will get pulled over by law enforcement and during their initial interaction, law enforcement will note that they recognize certain clues of impairment (blood shot eyes, confusion, seating, nervousness etc..) Based on these observations, the officer will inquire if the motorist has consumed any alcohol or drugs recently. If the motorist admits to some form of consumption of drugs, the officer may, along with their observations, have enough evidence to perform certain tests aimed at detecting drug impairment.
In order to perform these tests, an officer needs to have specialized training that certifies them as a DRE. Although prosecutors have attempted to enter DRE testimony into evidence at trial, there is still substantial question as to whether the training the officers have received is sufficient to qualify them as an expert and whether their testimony alone is sufficient to uphold a conviction for DWH.
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, there are currently 35 officers across the State of Vermont that have been certified as a Vermont Drug Recognition Expert, with the aim of having an increased number of officers take the two day training each year. The additional training offered to law enforcement is beginning to see dividends for enforcing DWH laws as in 2014 it was reported that officers conducted 214 evaluations, a steady increase from previous years.
With marijuana legalization making its way through the Vermont legislature and additional tools being added to the arsenal of Vermont law enforcement, motorists will need to become increasingly cautious as to their driving if they have ingested drugs or alcohol recently. It appears that Drug Recognition Experts are only one small part of a significantly wider net law enforcement will be casting when they commence a DWH or DWI investigation that could ensnare many motorists who do now know the DWH laws in the State of Vermont.