DRE Training & Certification

For a list of classes scheduled in 2016, click here.

The DEC Program trains police officers and other approved public safety officials as drug recognition experts (DREs) through a three-phase training process:

  1. Drug Recognition Expert Pre-School (16 hours)
  2. Drug Recognition Expert DRE School (56 hours)
  3. Drug Recognition Expert Field Certification (Approximately 40 – 60 hrs)

The training relies heavily on the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s), which provide the foundation for the DEC Program. Once trained and certified, DREs become highly effective officers skilled in the detection and identification of persons impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. DREs are trained to conduct a systematic and standardized 12-step evaluation consisting of physical, mental and medical components.

Because of the complexity and technical aspects of the DRE training, not all police officers may be suited for the training. Experience has shown that training a well-defined group of officers proficient in impaired driving enforcement works well and can be very effective.

The DRE classroom training is designed to assist the student achieve three broad goals and eight specific learning objectives.


  1. Determine if an individual is under the influence of a drug or drugs other than alcohol, or the combined influence of alcohol and other drugs, or suffering from some injury or illness that produces similar signs to alcohol/drug impairment;

  2. Identify the broad category or categories of drugs inducing the observable signs and symptoms of impairment; and

  3. Progress to the Field Certification Phase of the training.


  1. Be able to describe the involvement of drugs in impaired driving incidents;
  2. Name the seven drug categories and recognize their effects;
  3. Describe and properly administer the psychophysical and physiological evaluations used in the drug evaluation and classification procedures;
  4. Prepare a narrative drug influence evaluation report;
  5. Discuss appropriate procedures for testifying in typical drug evaluation and classification cases, and;

Maintain an up-to-date DRE curriculum vitae.

ARIDE: A Training Option Bridging the GAP Between SFST and DRE

The Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) program was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with input from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. ARIDE was created to address the gap in training between the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program.

The SFST program trains officers to identify and assess drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol while the DEC Program provides more advanced training to evaluate suspected drug impairment. The SFST assessment is typically employed at roadside, while an officer trained as a drug recognition expert (DRE) through the DEC Program conducts a drug evaluation in a more controlled environment such as a detention facility.

ARIDE is intended to bridge the gap between these two programs by providing officers with general knowledge related to drug impairment and by promoting the use of DREs in states that have the DEC Program. One of the more significant aspects of ARIDE is its review and required student demonstration of the SFST proficiency requirements. The ARIDE program also stresses the importance of securing the most appropriate biological sample in order to identify substances likely causing impairment.

ARIDE is a 16-hour training course and may be taught by DREs, DRE instructors or SFST instructors who are also DREs. The training will be conducted under the control and approval of the DEC Program state coordinator. NHTSA and IACP highly recommend that principal instructors for this course be state-qualified and IACP-credentialed DRE instructors; that is, they (1) hold currently valid certificates as DREs; (2) have completed the NHTSA/IACP DRE Instructor Training Course; and (3) have completed the required delivery of both classroom and certification training, under the supervision of credentialed DRE instructors. At minimum, a qualified DRE with instructor credentials in other fields of occupational competency (not necessarily a DRE instructor) can be utilized to present ARIDE materials if instructor resources are limited and can not be resolved at the state coordinator's level without undue hardship.

A qualified SFST instructor could instruct segments one through three leading to the preparation and evaluation of participants during the SFST proficiency examination. In addition to their occupational competencies, all instructors must be qualified trainers. They need to understand, and be able to apply, fundamental principles of instruction. Perhaps most importantly, they need to be competent coaches. Much of the classroom training is devoted to hands-on practice. The quality of coaching will have a major impact on the success of those practice sessions.It is highly recommended that every instructor be a graduate of the NHTSA/IACP DRE Instructor Training Course.

Some agencies may wish to enlist instructors with special credentials for certain blocks of instruction. For example, a physician would be well qualified to assist or teach session IV, and a prosecutor might be a good choice for session VIII.

The training also promotes interaction with representatives from the state's prosecution community. Part of the course is intended to be taught by a local prosecutor or the state's traffic safety resource prosecutor (TSRP).

The ARIDE program was successfully piloted in Connecticut, Kentucky, Washington and West Virginia. These states were selected based on NHTSA's desire to have representation in the pilot study from states with, and without, the DEC program. Seven pilot courses trained 205 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and toxicologists. Law enforcement represented 186 (90%) of the participants. Sixty-seven percent were from local law enforcement and 23% from state police agencies.

For more information about ARIDE, contact Brandon Gardner or Chuck Hayes of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Prosecuting the Drugged Driver: A Trial Advocacy Course

The Prosecuting the Drugged Driver is a curriculum developed in cooperation by NHTSA and the National Traffic Law Center. This course is designed to create a team building approach between prosecutors and law enforcement officers to aid in the detection, apprehension, and prosecution of impaired drivers. Prosecutors and law enforcement officers participate in interactive training classes taught by a multidisciplinary faculty.

The course begins with an overview of the drug-impaired driving problem in the United States and the substantive areas of training that police officers receive to be certified as a drug recognition expert (DRE). Learning about drug categories, signs and symptoms of drug influence, the role of the DRE in establishing impairment, and the role of toxicology in these cases will assist the prosecutor in developing methods for effectively and persuasively presenting this information in court. The course also addresses how to qualify the DRE as an expert witness in court and how to respond to common defense challenges.

Each participant has the opportunity to prosecute a mock case including the opportunity to conduct a direct examination of a DRE and a toxicologist. Each phase of the trial is videotaped. Participants receive critiques of the live and videotaped presentations from experienced faculty. Throughout every stage of the course, participants receive direct feedback on their courtroom skills with assistance in how to compose more persuasive arguments and deliver more dynamic presentations.

For more information on this training, contact Duane Kokesch at the National Traffic Law Center: (703) 519-1641 or at dkokesch@ndaajustice.org