In Florida, you can be convicted of Driving Under The Influence (DUI) for either drugs or alcohol. That is the reason why in Florida we do not see the charge of DWI or Driving While Intoxicated. If your blood alcohol level is at .00 but the prosecutor can prove that at the time you were driving you were impaired because of drugs then you can be found guilty of a DUI and receive the same penalties as if you had been drinking.
Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)
To prove drug-impairment, the prosecutor will usually rely on a police officer who is a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). This officer will have attended extensive training on how to evaluate a driver for signs of impairment caused by drugs. The DRE officer will go through a checklist of 12-steps and will also obtain a urine or blood test from you. Based on the evaluation, the DRE officer will formulate an opinion of what category or categories of drugs you are under the influence of. However, the DRE officer cannot formulate an opinion of a specific drug just categories. A DUI case involving drugs but with no DRE officer is an extremely weak case because ordinary DUI officers are not trained in drug recognition and cannot do a drug influence evaluation.
The following are the seven categories that DRE officers are trained on:
1. Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressant
Examples: Alcohol, Barbiturates, Anti-Depressants, Anti-Anxiety & Tranquilizers
2. Central Nervous System (CNS) Stimulant
Examples: Cocaine, Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, Ritalin
Examples: LSD, MDMA (Ecstasy), Psilocybin, Peyote
4. Dissociative Anesthetic
Examples: PCP (Phenyl Cyclohexyl Piperdine), Ketamine, Dextromethorphan
5. Narcotic Analgesic
Examples: Heroin, Codeine, Demerol, Methadone, OxyContin
Examples: Glue, Gasoline, Aerosols, Nitrous Oxide, Amyl Nitrite
Examples: Marijuana, Hashish, Marinol
Defend Your Drug-Impaired DUI Case
These cases are truly a challenge because a thorough analysis of the drug evaluation must be done and then compared with all the other facts and evidence in the case to formulate an effective defense. Your attorney has to pay attention to the details in the evaluation and must be very familiar with the DRE training manuals (there are at least 6 dedicated to DRE officers) and the main manual alone is 432 pages. I have all 14 DUI/DRE training manuals and they are constantly utilized so I can review what the officer did in a case versus what their training taught them to do.
DRE officers are very thorough in their evaluations but mistakes are made and often times their evaluation is not consistent with the facts at the scene of the arrest. For example, a DRE officer may say you are under the influence of a CNS stimulant but yet you were passed out in your parked car behind the steering wheel. This behavior is more consistent with CNS depressants than a stimulant. In addition, the DRE officer is often times not the arresting officer so he is not formulating his opinion on what he observed during the traffic stop just on the evaluation that he is doing. And if the DRE officer happens to be the arresting officer, the training manuals say that he must get another DRE officer to perform an independent evaluation.
Many attorneys that don't focus their practice on DUI cases may just force or advice a client in a drug-impaired case with a DRE officer to take a guilty plea. However, an attorney that dedicates his practice to DUI cases will be in the best position to provide you with an effective defense that may either get your charges reduced to reckless driving or gives you a fighting chance at trial.
If you are facing a DUI in Miami involving either drugs or alcohol please contact me directly so that I may answer any questions you have and provide you with a free case evaluation. My practice focuses on DUI defense in Miami. Let’s talk about your case and what defenses it might have.