The Drug Evaluation and Classification Program
International Association of Chiefs of Police
Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program
The Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program is a transportation safety program focusing on the detection and apprehension of drug-impaired drivers. The program is managed and coordinated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The DEC Program (also referred to as the Drug Recognition Expert Program) began in the early 1970s in Los Angeles, California, by the Los Angeles Police Department. Due to the program's success in identifying drug-impaired drivers, it soon became an international program expanding to other states and eventually into Canada and other countries. All 50 states plus and the District of Columbia, participate in the program in the United States
The DEC Program trains police officers and other public safety officials as drug recognition experts or drug recognition evaluators (DREs) through a three-phase training curriculum:
- Drug Recognition Expert Pre-School (16 hours)
- Drug Recognition Expert School (56 hours)
- Drug Recognition Expert Field Certification (Approximately 40 hours)
The training relies heavily upon the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), which provide the foundation for the DEC program. Once trained and certified, a DRE becomes a highly effective officer skilled in the detection and identification of persons impaired or affected by alcohol and/or drugs. DREs are trained to conduct a systematic and standardized 12-step evaluation consisting of physical, mental and medical components. (Refer to page three for the 12-step process procedures).
The DRE Drug Evaluation Process
DREs conduct a detailed examination of persons arrested or suspected of drug-impaired driving or similar offenses. Based on the results of the DRE drug evaluation, a DRE forms an expert opinion on the following:
- Isthepersonimpaired?Ifso,isthepersonabletooperateavehiclesafely?IftheDRE concludes that the person is impaired...
- Istheimpairmentduetoaninjury,illnessorothermedicalcomplication,orisitdrug- related? If the DRE concludes that the impairment is due to drugs...
- TheDREdetermineswhichcategoryorcombinationofcategoriesofdrugsisthemost likely source of the impairment.
DREs conduct their evaluations in a controlled environment, typically at a police precinct, intake center, troop headquarters or other location where impaired drivers are transported after arrest. The drug evaluation is not normally done at roadside and is typically a “post- arrest” procedure.
In some cases, the person evaluated will be a driver the DRE personally arrested. However, in many cases, the DRE will be called upon to conduct the evaluation after the driver has been arrested by another officer. The DRE is requested to assist in the investigation because of their special expertise and skills in identifying drug impairment.
The DRE drug evaluation takes approximately one hour to complete. The DRE evaluates and assesses the person’s appearance and behavior. The DRE also carefully measures and records vital signs and makes precise observations of the person’s automatic responses and reactions. The DRE also administers carefully designed psychophysical tests to evaluate the person’s judgment, information processing ability, coordination and various other characteristics. The DRE will systematically consider everything about the person that could indicate the influence of drugs.
The DRE Drug Evaluation Process
The DRE drug evaluation includes twelve major components or steps:
1. 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 it must be determined whether or not alcohol accounts for the observed impairment.
2. Interview of the Arresting Officer
If the DRE did not make the arrest, the arresting officer must be interviewed prior to the evaluation. This allows the DRE to gain an insight on the suspect’s driving, conduct at roadside, and performance of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s).
3. 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 alcohol and/or drugs or if the impairment may be medically related. If drug impairment is suspected, the DRE proceeds with the evaluation.
4. Examinations 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 assist in determining the suspect’s condition and whether he/she is able to operate a vehicle safely. The DRE administers four divided attention psychophysical tests: (1) Modified Romberg Balance, (2) Walk and Turn, (3) One Leg Stand, and (4) Finger to Nose.
6. Examination of Vital Signs
In this step the DRE conducts 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, 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 (room light, near-total darkness, and direct light) with a device called a pupilometer and a penlight.
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
During this step, 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 and renders an expert opinion about the condition of the suspect and the category(s) of drugs causing the impairment.
12. Toxicological Examination
As part of the evaluation process, either the arresting officer or the DRE requests a blood or urine specimen, which if collected, 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. (There may be situations when this step is taken out of order. Examples may include the cooperation of the suspect, type of specimen collected, lab policies, etc.)
Once the drug evaluation is completed, the DRE submits a detailed report documenting the evaluation, the evidence obtained and his/her opinion as to whether or not the suspect was impaired and the category(s) of drugs causing the impairment.
DRE Drug Categories
DREs are trained to identify indicators of impairment in seven drug categories:
1. Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
CNS Depressants slow down the operations of the brain and the body. Examples of CNS Depressants include alcohol, barbiturates, anti-anxiety tranquilizers (e.g., diazepam, chlordiazepoxide, alprazolam, fluoxetine, and chlorpromazine), GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), flunitrazepam and many other anti-depressants (e.g., as sertraline, paroxetine).
2. CNS Stimulants
CNS Stimulants accelerate the heart rate and elevate the blood pressure and "speed-up" or over-stimulate the body. Examples of CNS Stimulants include cocaine, "crack", amphetamines and methamphetamine (“crank”).
Hallucinogens cause the user to perceive things differently than they actually are. Examples include LSD, mescaline, psilocybin and MDMA (ecstasy).
4. Dissociative Anesthetics
Dissociative Anesthetics are a category of drugs that inhibits pain by cutting off or “disassociating” the brain’s perception of pain. Drugs such as PCP and its analogs (e.g. ketamine) and dextromethorphan are included in this category.
5. Narcotic Analgesics
Narcotic analgesics relieve pain, induces euphoria and creates mood changes in the user. Examples of narcotic analgesics include morphine, codeine, heroin, fentanyl, meperidine, propoxyphene, methadone, hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Inhalants include a wide variety of breathable substances that produce mind-altering results and effects. Examples of inhalants include plastic cement, paint, gasoline, paint thinners, hair sprays and various anesthetic gases.
Cannabis (DRE drug category definition: substances containing delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, THC) interferes with a person's ability or willingness to divide attention, which is necessary to operate a vehicle safely. Examples include marijuana, hashish and dronabinol (synthetic THC).
Effectiveness of the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program
The Drug Recognition Section of the IACP prepares an annual report on the expansion, training, and activities of the DEC Program throughout the United States and Canada. The report is based largely on evaluation data submitted by DREs into a national database operated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This report is distributed among the NHTSA regions and all of the states’ highway safety offices. Annual reports are available at http://www.theiacp.org/Drug-Recognition-Expert-Section
The overall effectiveness of the DEC Program is contingent on the support of the law enforcement administration, the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, the laboratories conducting the toxicology, and the prosecutors handling the drugged driving cases.
Contact information regarding the DEC Program
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is the coordinating agency for the DEC Program. For more information about the program visit the IACP DEC Program Web site at www.decp.org
Revised 10/2015 CEH