Properly and Effectively Adjudicating Drugged Drivers: The Development of Online Curricula

In order to expand access to training in drugged driving adjudication, the AAA Foundation funded the development and production of online courses for judges and prosecutors.

June 2018

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson


  • Katheryn L. Yetter

  • Tom E. Kimball


As law enforcement and prosecutors increasingly bring drugged driving cases to court, judges need to understand the current status of research in this field and to increase public safety by applying effective sentencing parameters and evidence-based sentencing practices. The availability of training in drugged driving adjudication has varied among states and some training, such as in-person courses, can be costly and require out-of-state travel, limiting judges’ participation. In order to expand access to such training, the National Judicial College (NJC) produced a six-week online blended learning course for judges across the country on the topic of drugged driving with financial support from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS). A “blended” program is one that combines live faculty-led sessions with corresponding periods of self-study. The AAAFTS also funded the tailoring of the judges’ curriculum for an online drugged driving course for prosecutors, which was produced by the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA). The current report describes the process through which the curriculum and related materials were developed for the judges’ course and tailored for the prosecutors’ course. An overview of a pilot for the judges’ course, along with the outcomes of a course evaluation, are also provided.


The curriculum developed for the judges’ course was based on: input from a curriculum development committee; literature review; interviews with partners and faculty; a survey of key stakeholders; a review of existing courses; and a pilot and program evaluation.

Given the relevance for prosecutors who are increasingly bringing drugged driving cases to court, the NDAA sought to leverage some of the content that was in development for the judges’ course. As part of a joint partnership, the NDAA participated as a member of the curriculum development committee for the judges’ course.

Throughout the development process, NDAA carried out a needs assessment of their constituents in parallel.


The judges’ course was held each week for six weeks beginning Oct. 30, 2017 and concluding on Dec. 8, 2017 (see Appendix A for syllabus). Each week’s course was comprised of one hour of self-paced readings and quizzes to orient the judge to the week’s content and one hour of live faculty-led webcast to review, discuss, and answer questions about the week’s content.

The final six modules for the judges’ course were:

• How drugs affect the brain;
• The Role of Drug Testing and Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) in Drugged Driving Cases;
• DRE Admissibility: Prosecution and Defense Arguments;
• The Role of the Judge;
• Recidivism and Sentencing; and
• Judicial ethics.

The launched course had evaluations for each module (six in total) and a final evaluation. The results of the evaluations suggested that program was successful on all of its points of measurement:

• On average, the online portion took participants about an hour to complete;
• 91% of respondents agreed that the amount of content and the expectations for the course were appropriate;
• 100% of respondents agreed that the technology was reasonably accessible and easy to use; and
• 100% of respondents agreed that the activities were useful and well aligned with the learning objectives.

NDAA’s needs assessment for the prosecutors’ course resulted in a focus on designing a video series that would support the existing Prosecuting a Drugged Driver course designed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The ten NDAA videos were aimed at a particular audience of new prosecutors, prosecutors recently assigned to impaired driving cases and law enforcement officers, so they can better understand the work of prosecutors.

The topics covered in the video series were:

• Admissibility of Expert Testimony
• The Toxicologist
• Courtroom Issues
• Refusals after Birchfield

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson


Katheryn L. Yetter

Tom E. Kimball