State v. Neal, ___ N.C. App. ___, 833 S.E.2d 367 (Sept. 17, 2019)

An anonymous person contacted law enforcement to report that a small green vehicle with license plate RCW-042 was in a specific area, had run several vehicles off the road, had struck a vehicle, and was attempting to leave the scene. Deputies went to the area and immediately stopped a vehicle matching the description given by the caller. The defendant was driving the vehicle. She was unsteady on her feet and appeared to be severely impaired. A trooper arrived and administered SFSTs, which the trooper terminated because the defendant could not complete them safely. A subsequent blood test revealed multiple drugs in the defendant’s system. The defendant was charged with impaired driving, was convicted in district court and in superior court, and appealed.

The defendant argued that the superior court judge erred by allowing a drug recognition expert (DRE) who was not involved in the stop to testify that in her opinion, based on her conversation with the trooper and her review of his report, the defendant was impaired by a central nervous system depressant and a narcotic analgesic. The reviewing court found no error, noting that N.C. R. Evid. 702(a1)(2) allows DREs to offer opinions regarding impairment.