Medical Impairment

Medical Impairment

One of the important aspects of DRE training is the knowledge and training they receive in recognizing and distinguishing between alcohol/drug impairment and a medical condition. Because of their enhanced training, DREs are better equipped than most officers to identify medical impairments. Each year DREs spare an untold number of people in the midst of medical crisis from being wrongfully charged with DUID. The following are some examples:

Troopers of the Wyoming Highway Patrol pulled over a vehicle that was being driven erratically and straddling two lanes, and the driver appeared intoxicated and lethargic, had a blank stare, and was unable to answer basic questions. Troopers could not detect the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the driver and a DRE determined that the man’s impairment was due to a medical condition. Troopers called for an ambulance to transport the driver a medical center where the man was flown via Life Flight to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. Medical personnel advised that the man had suffered a stroke.

In Oklahoma, an officer arrested a 64-year old male involved in a hit and run. After the subject exhibited HGN and could not complete the other tests, the officer took him to the Cleveland County Detention Center for a breath test with results of 0.00. The officer called for a DRE and met him at the hospital. The evaluation looked like a medical rule out and the doctor ordered a CT. The CT came back with a mass on the brain and a possible stroke. The subject was released without arrest to the hospital.

In Alaska police charged a woman with driving under the influence and other offenses after she crashed into several vehicles in downtown Anchorage. After field sobriety tests determined that alcohol was not a factor in the crashes, a DRE was summoned to conduct a drug evaluation on the suspect. The DRE noted that she had difficulty with the psychophysical tests and comprehending instructions. There was an unusual difference in the suspect’s pupil sizes. Her clinical signs varied and were not consistent with someone under the influence of drugs. After concluding that the suspect was not impaired by drugs, the DRE suspected that the woman had suffered from a seizure. She was transported to local hospital where medical personnel confirmed the DRE’s opinion. The suspect has since been diagnosed with epilepsy and is being treated for that illness.

In Pennsylvania, a DRE was summoned to conduct an evaluation on a subject involved in a non-reportable motor vehicle collision. The DRE’s evaluation revealed signs and symptoms that did not coincide with the medications the driver said he took. His face had a yellowish tint and his eyes were bloodshot, dry and yellow. After checking temperature, blood pressure and pulse, the DRE began to suspect that the suspect was having a medical problem and ordered him transported to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with viral encephalitis, an infection in the brain. His signs and symptoms were listed as being in the more severe and later stages of this infection.

A trooper in same state attempted to pull alongside a vehicle that was sitting in an intersection. When he activated his emergency lights, the driver, a female, made a turn that headed in the wrong direction and drove over the short concrete center divider and stopped. When questioned, the driver had confused responses and was unclear as to how she got to the roadway. The trooper saw no outward signs of impairment, such as pupil size or nystagmus, but her pulse was barely discernable. The trooper determined this was a medical emergency and summoned EMS. The subject was having a cardiac event and was transported by EMS to a health cardiac unit for further evaluation.

In Kennewick, Washington, an officer discovered a man slumped over in his car in the middle of the road. The officer smelled no alcohol and believed that the man had overdosed on drugs. The officer requested a DRE who determined that the man was diabetic and had actually missed an insulin shot.

In Oregon, a commercial bus driver was reported as possible impaired driver and nearly caused several crashes. After locating the bus driver a DRE was requested to examine the subject. The DRE determined that the driver was actually having a diabetic reaction. The driver was dispatched to an emergency facility for treatment.

In Mesa, Arizona, DREs released and obtained medical help for two DUI suspects who were actually suffering from a diabetic condition. Another DRE referred a suspect to a doctor “because the DRE had detected a muscular problem . . . the suspect later called the police department to thank the DRE because the suspect was diagnosed as having M.S.”

In Indiana, a driver stopped for erratic driving and failed field sobriety testing was taken to a hospital where he was evaluated by a DRE. His blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature were high and he displayed an immediate set of nystagmus, terrible balance and poor walk and turn. He said he was seeing double, and he was talking out of only one side of his mouth. The DRE called it a medical rule out and told the hospital staff, who were convinced the driver was impaired, that the person needed to see a doctor. Later, the driver contacted the officer to tell him that he’d had a stroke while driving and to thank him for potentially saving his life. .

In New York, a DRE encountered a man believed to be on drugs who had actually suffered a stroke. The DRE recognized this and had him immediately rushed to the hospital. The DRE’s quick thinking helped to save this man’s life.

In Iowa, police brought to jail a man who appeared to be high on marijuana. After an evaluation, the DRE discovered he actually had a head injury, including a fractured skull. He was airlifted to Iowa City for surgery. The DRE’s evaluation probably saved the man’s life.

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