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Defense attorneys question Vermont’s drugged driving testing

September 17, 2018

HARTFORD, Vt. (AP) — Multiple defense attorneys are questioning the reliability of Vermont’s way of testing drivers suspected to be under the influence of a substance other than alcohol.

Under the testing, police call an officer who is trained as drug recognition expert to conduct a series of evaluations at a police station after a traffic stop. The tests include a pulse reading, eye examination, muscle examination and psychological test.

The testing method is endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and used in all 50 states and Canada, said Vermont State Police Lt. John Flannigan, the state coordinator for the International Drug Evaluation and Classification Program.

“It is recognized in the science community as using scientific methods and principles, and it’s the course across the country,” he said.

But attorneys, including Norwich-based George Ostler and St. Johnsbury-based David Sleigh, argue that the tests are not scientifically reliable, the Valley News reports.

“This DRE stuff has not been proven to be reliable by the scientific process that is accepted in every other important avenue,” Ostler said last week.

The Vermont Medical Society also endorses the program.

Vermont currently has 50 drug recognition experts, and will have nine more when officers finish their training at the end of the month.

The DRE test is reliable when a person tells an officer he or she is under the influence of a drug, said attorneys Dan Davis, of Brattleboro, and Chris Dall, of Norwich. But without that information, the test’s accuracy is questionable, they said.

“When you don’t have that self-reporting, I am not certain that this is a reliable form of testing,” said Davis, a former Vermont State Police trooper and prosecutor.

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