Drug Evaluation Classification Program (DECP/DRE)

DRE Basic Certification

The DECP/DRE Program trains police officers and other approved public safety officials as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) through a three-phase training process:

The training relies heavily upon the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), which provide the foundation for the DEC Program. Once trained and certified, DREs become highly effective officers skilled in the detection and identification of persons impaired or affected by drugs and/or alcohol. DREs are trained to conduct a standardized and systematic 12-step evaluation consisting of physical, mental, and medical components. The DEC/DRE certification course use a standard national curriculum.

The 12 steps of the Drug Evaluation Process for the DRE include:

  1. The Breath Alcohol Test
    The DRE will need to know the result of the suspect’s breath alcohol test, if taken. This is important to the DRE because he must determine whether or not alcohol accounts for the observed impairment. Normally, if the suspect’s blood alcohol level is above the state’s limit for DUI (.08% in most states), a DRE drug evaluation is not conducted.
  2. The Interview of the Arresting Officer
    If the DRE did not make the arrest, he will need to interview the arresting officer prior to the evaluation. This allows the DRE to gain an insight on the suspect’s driving, conduct at roadside, and their performance of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).
  3. The Preliminary Examination
    During this step, the DRE will perform a preliminary examination checking for any evidence of a medical complication that would warrant terminating the evaluation and requesting medical assistance. The suspect is asked a series of questions, and the DRE conducts a series of eye examinations that assist in making the decision whether the suspect is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol or if the impairment may be medically related. If drug impairment is suspected, the DRE proceeds with the evaluation.
  4. Examination of the Eyes
    In this step, the DRE administers three tests of the suspect’s eyes: (1) Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), (2) Vertical Gaze Nystagmus (VGN), and (3) Lack of Convergence (LOC).
  5. Divided Attention Psychophysical Tests
    The DRE conducts a series of psychophysical tests that assists in determining the suspect’s condition and if he/she is able to operate a vehicle safely. The DRE administers four divided attention psychophysical tests: (1) the Rhomberg Balance, (2) Walk and Turn, (3) One Leg Stand, and (4) Finger to Nose.
  6. Examination of Vital Signs
    The sixth step requires the DRE to make precise measurements of the suspect’s pulse rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. The suspect’s pulse rate is measured three different times during the evaluation. During this step of the evaluation, the DRE will use medical instruments, including a stethoscope, a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff), and a digital thermometer.
  7. Dark Room Examinations
    During this step in the evaluation process, the DRE will take the suspect into a separate room where the DRE can obtain an estimate of the suspect’s pupil size in three different lighting conditions. The DRE uses a device called a pupilometer and a penlight to conduct the measurements in room light, near total darkness, and direct light.
  8. Examination for Muscle Tone
    During this step, the DRE inspects the suspect’s arm muscles checking for muscle tone.
  9. Examination for Injection Sites
    Many drug abusers inject drugs. So immediately after checking muscle tone, the DRE then carefully inspects the suspect’s arms, hands, fingers, and neck for evidence of recent or past hypodermic needle injections.
  10. Suspect’s Statements and Other Observations
    In this step of the evaluation, the DRE questions the suspect about specific evidence and observations made during the evaluation.
  11. Opinions of the Evaluator
    In this step, the DRE documents his/her conclusions rendering an expert opinion about the condition of the suspect and the category(s) of drugs causing the impairment.
  12. The Toxicological Examination
    The final step in the evaluation process is to obtain a blood or urine specimen, which is sent to the laboratory for chemical analysis. The lab analyzes the specimen and reports the findings to the DRE and/or the arresting officer.

Because of the complexity and technical aspects of the DRE training, not all police officers may be suited for the training. Experience has shown that training a well-defined group of officers proficient in impaired driving enforcement works well and can be very effective.

Texas Requirements to Apply/Attend DRE Certification course:

There is NO registration fee for the DRE Basic Certification. The course is provided through grant funds from the Texas Department of Transportation administrated by Sam Houston State University. Application packets may be obtained on the website: www.cjcenter.org/idi or by contacting the DRE office at dre@shsu.edu.

Application Packet:

Contact Information Regarding the DEC Program
In the State of Texas, the training program is federally funded through a grant provided by the Texas Department of Transportation. Administration is conducted by Sam Houston State University. For additional information regarding the Texas DEC/DRE Program, contact Cecelia Marquart, DRE State Coordinator, at (936) 294-1677 or Diane Clark at (936) 294-4579, or e-mail the DRE office at dre@shsu.edu.