2016 National College of DUI Defense’s Serious Science Drug Seminar: Day 2

Dec. 10, 2016

img_6399The second day of the National College of DUI Defense’s Serious Science Drug Seminar started with a pharmacology presentation from Dr. Steven Oakes, whose focus was on the drugs most commonly associated with DUI / OVWI arrests. Dr. Oakes spent time on chemical classification, the specific biochemical effects of various substances, as well as drug interactions in the human body.


Former law enforcement officer Anthony Palacios presented on the training of police who are certified as “Drug Recognition Experts,” or DREs. This title is earned by officers who have completed 160 hours of intensive training focused on the ways drugs interact with the human body.  Much of the session was devoted to the fact that the “expert” nature of the DREs is not determined by a judge, a jury of one’s peers, or the scientific community. Rather, these are “experts” according to a designation made by an accrediting body, specifically the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

fullsizeoutput_17abThe third presentation was delivered by Janine Arvizu, an analytical chemist and laboratory data quality auditor who was the star scientific witness at the trial of Steven Avery (Avery was the subject of the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer).  Arvizu concentrated her session on metrology and touched on chromatographic analysis, with an emphasis on potential sources of error.

img_6487After a quick break for lunch, the group traveled to the University of Texas-Arlington to visit the Shimadzu Center for Advanced Analytical Chemistry. Following a tour of the labs, the classroom component of the seminar started again. The afternoon session was led by Drs. Kevin Schug and Andreas Stolz, and they discussed forensic metrology and instrumental analysis. One of the most interesting points was the contrast between blood testing for alcohol and blood testing for the presence of other substances, specifically THC.

As the slides below demonstrate, testing for THC in blood is much more complicated than testing for alcohol, and it requires more precision and finer instruments.

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