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DRE Program: APRI Conference - "Protecting Lives, Saving Futures"

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Protecting Lives, Saving Futures is a project of the American Prosecutors Research Institute's National Traffic Law Center, with initial funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This model curriculum is designed to jointly train police and prosecutors in the detection, apprehension and prosecution of impaired drivers. The training includes instruction on impairment due to drugs as well as alcohol and is unique in two ways: (1) Experts in the fields of toxicology, optometry, prosecution and law enforcement designed and developed the curriculum; (2) Police and prosecutors are trained together by the experts in their respective disciplines. The project's Curriculum Development Group included members of the National District Attorneys Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the American Optometric Association and the Society of Forensic Toxicologists. The training is the first of its kind to be developed nationally and is adaptable to all local jurisdictions.

The joint-training approach promulgated by this program allows all the involved disciplines to learn from each other inside a classroom rather than outside a courtroom five minutes before trial. Each profession learns firsthand the challenges and difficulties the others face in impaired driving cases. This allows for greater understanding on the part of police officers as to what evidence prosecutors must have in an impaired driving case. Conversely, this training gives prosecutors the opportunity to learn to ask better questions in pretrial preparation, as well as in the courtroom. Both prosecutors and law enforcement officers learn firsthand from toxicologists about breath, blood and urine tests. A nationally recognized optometrist instructs police and prosecutors about the effects of alcohol and other drugs on an individual's eyes, specifically, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). In turn, optometrists and toxicologists gain a greater appreciation for the challenges officers face at the scene in gathering forensic evidence and the legal requirements prosecutors must meet in presenting evidence in court. This exchange of information is beneficial to all involved.

Prosecutors and police officers participate in interactive training classes regarding:

    • Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) and the effective documentation of observations of suspects
    • The medical background of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, including the correlation of HGN to alcohol and other drugs
    • The scientific background of the breath/blood/urine alcohol and drug tests, and advantages and limitations of forensic testing
    • Identification of impairment due to alcohol as well as drugs
    • The effective presentation of evidence in court through a mock trial exercise

While still relatively new, this course has been well received by faculty and students alike. Some recent comments from our training in Salem, Oregon:

    • "Thoroughly enjoyed this training and really enjoyed observing the enthusiasm of the instructors."
    • "This was an excellent course. I am so grateful to have [had] this opportunity!"

There is no question that impaired driving is a serious matter. Better trained officers and prosecutors are a necessary step to reducing the carnage on our nation's highways. The National Traffic Law Center welcomes the opportunity to bring this training to your state.

For questions and comments regarding the CHP DRE Program, please email dre@chp.ca.gov.