Law Enforcement Intelligence Report

A Patrol Officer's Guide to Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Drug Impairment

Sgt. Corey MacDonald, Esq. is a board certified drug recognition instructor and he sets forth the symptoms and recognition tips for the various drugs a officer will encounter. He also discusses the various test available and their effectiveness.
Table of Contents
  1. The Importance of Recognizing Impairment
    1. Driving offenses
    2. Interviews of victims and witnesses
    3. Interrogations of suspects
    4. Mens rea – criminal intent
    5. School safety
  2. Evaluation Considerations
    1. Officer Safety!!!
    2. Who will your audience be later?
    3. Is this going to court, or to an administrative hearing?
    4. Duty to act?
  3. Informal observations
    1. Slurred speech and/or mouth agape
    2. Can't keep train of thought
    3. Hunched forward
    4. Eyes (stare, bloodshot, glassy, pupil siz
    5. Grinding teeth
    6. Poor fine motor skills
    7. Emotional
  4. Divided Attention Tests
    1. Ask for two things at the same time.
    2. Interrupt the driver and ask a distracting question.
    3. Be aware of attempts to avoid your questions.
    4. Ask "How much have you drank?" v. "Have you been drinking?"
  5. Field Sobriety Tests (FST)
    1. Standardization of Field Sobriety Tests – objective tests
    2. Presenting a "United Front" to the court
    3. Reduce liability - "We treat everyone the same."
    4. KISS rule
    5. Supervisors can better evaluate weak points in cases, or training needs.
    6. FSTs are divided attention tests.
  6. The Four Recommended Field Sobriety Tests (FST)
    1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
    2. 9 Step Walk & TurnTest: 8 Clues
    3. One Leg Stand Test: 4 Clues
    4. Rhomberg Balance Test: Clues
  7. Seven Major Drug Categories & Symptoms of Use
    1. CNS Depressants (alcohol, barbiturates, anti-depressants., anti-psychotics, tranquilizers)
    2. CNS Stimulants (cocaine, amphetamines)
    3. Hallucinogens (LSD, ecstasy)
    4. Disassociative Anesthetics (PCP, Ketamin
    5. Narcotic Analgesics (heroin, opiates, pain killers)
    6. Inhalents (acetone, toluene, nitrous)
    7. Cannabis (marijuana, hashish, hash oil)
  8. Alternative Tests
    1. Finger to nose
    2. Alphabet (A-Z, not sun
  9. What is the cause?
    1. Look for physical symptoms
    2. Look for behavioral symptoms
  10. When to call a DRE
    1. Arrest based on probable cause of drug or alcohol impairment
    2. Breathalyzer or PBT test less than 0.09 and impairment does not match BRAC
    3. 0.09 or more
  11. The Totality of the Circumstances
    1. SFST's and our observations are not an exact science, they are based strongly in common sense.
    2. Training and experience
    3. The "reasonable man" standard, the yard stick of the law.
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