A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) is a cop who has taken a specialized training course. According to the training manual, “The Drug Recognition Expert course is a series of three training phases that, collectively, prepare police officers and other qualified persons to serve as drug recognition experts (DRE).”. See NHTSA DRE Training Manual R5/13. DRE cops are used extensively in criminal cases where a DUI is charged involving drugs.
However, the term “Expert” has a very specific meaning in a legal context. In California a witness testifying in the form of an opinion may state on direct examination . . . his special knowledge, skill, experience, training, and education) upon which it is based . . . . . The court in its discretion may require that a witness before testifying in the form of an opinion be first examined concerning the matter upon which his opinion is based.” (Evid. Code, § 802.).
Under California law a DRE must qualify as an expert under the evidence code and present a proper foundation, i.e., “a description of the DRE’s training, education, and experience in administering the test, together with a showing that the test was properly administered.
In many DUI cases police officers are referred to as Drug Recognition Experts by the District Attorney. This title should be objected to and the DA should be admonished to not use the title “expert” when referring to such witness before the jury.
To allow the officer The title of “Drug Recognition Expert” usurps the Court’s sole discretion to qualify expert testimony.
More importantly, it unduly suggests to a Jury that they should give the DRE more weight and credibility than they would other witnesses – infringing on their fact-finding function.
Instead of referring to the witness as an expert, you may want to propose an alternative such as “Drug Recognition OFFICER” or “Drug, Recognition EVALUATOR” as substitute titles for the police officer.
Ultimately it is up to the jury to decide if a witness is an “expert” or not. You should not allow the prosecutor to brain wash the jurors into believing he or she is. If the Court allows the witness to be called an expert it gives the jury an impression that the Court has endorsed this witness and cloak he or she with credibility before the jury ever considers the evidence.
Some of the most damaging evidence in a drug DUI case (DUID) will come from the DRE, it it important to try and neutralize that evidence whenever possible. Asking the Court to refrain from using a prejudicial term when referring to said witness is a good start.