According to a recent news article from Action 10 News, witnesses saw a woman in Corpus Christi remove all of her clothes while standing outside of her car with her three-year-old son. She then got in the car with the child and drove away. When police pulled the woman over, she was allegedly in the car, completely naked, with her child sitting on her lap. Police arrested the suspect for driving under the influence. The child was left with his father when the woman was taken to jail.
We do not known why this woman removed her clothing and drove with her child sitting on her lap, but it is obviously not consistent with a typical drunk driving arrest. As our DUI lawyers in Birmingham understand, when the police observe a driver acting in what they believe to be a strange manner, they often just assume the suspect is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and make an arrest.
In cases where the officer assumes a suspect is driving under the influence of drugs, the officer must have demonstrable evidence to support these assumptions. A blood test at the police station cannot be used as probable cause for the arrest, because that occurs after the arrest and results may not be available for weeks or even months.
In order to make a determination that a suspect is under the influence of drugs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires officers be certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). To become a DRE, the officer must have extensive training and education, complete a written exam, and then complete a certain number of hours in the field to receive this designation. There are few qualified DREs, if any, in most police departments.
If the department has a DRE, the arresting officer will typically call for the DRE when he or she believes that a suspect is driving under the influence of drugs. When the DRE arrives, he will evaluate the suspect and determine if he or she is under the influence of drugs for the purpose of establishing probable cause to make a DUI arrest.
In this scenario, your attorney may be able to challenge results of the DRE’s determination, based upon confirmation bias. The DRE was called there because another officer already told them that a suspect was on drugs. Research has shown that once the outcome has been suggested, the results of the examination are compromised. In other words, the DRE is not making a determination of whether or not the DUI suspect is under the influence of drugs, but rather he or she is there to confirm the person is on drugs, so that the arresting officer has sufficient probable cause to make an arrest.
It is also important to understand that field sobriety tests given by officers are not designed to detect drugs; rather, they are only able (allegedly) to determine if someone has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or higher.