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Seattle DUI Police Officers May Not Be Able to Testify to Drivers Drug Use

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | May 07, 2013 | 0 Comments

In Seattle Municipal Court, opinion testimony from Seattle DUI police officers may not be allowed if a new opinion from the Court of Appeals is given any weight.  

Washington_field_sobriety_tests
Seattle DUI Police Officers Check For Drugs When They Arrest Seattle DUI Suspects

Although an unpublished case, the Court of Appeals in Division II decided that to introduce an officer's testimony that a driver's pupils were constricted because they had been using drugs on the night of the driving was not allowed.

The lower trial court ruled that the officer who spoke to the suspect on the night of the shooting was not qualified to offer an opinion about whether Joanna's constricted pupils were indicative of drug use.  Under evidence rule 702, a witness must be qualified as an expert by "knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education" before the witness may testify to an opinion.

In Seattle Municipal Court many of the Seattle DUI Squad Officers are trained to look for drugs.  But in this case, the officer was not a trained drug recognition expert (DRE), therefore he was not qualified as an expert to offer an opinion on whether Joanna's restricted pupils were indicative of drug use. See State v. Baity, 140 Wn.2d 1, 18, 991 P.2d 1151 (2000) (because DRE evidence is admissible under Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (1923), "[a] properly qualified expert may use the 12-step protocol and the chart of categories of drugs to relate an opinion about the presence or absence of certain categories of drugs in a suspect's system").

The Court of Appeals ruled:

Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding testimony from the officer as to his speculative opinion regarding whether Joanna's constricted pupils were indicative of drug use.

The case is: 

State v. Brady, Wash: Court of Appeals, 2nd Div., 2013

About the Author

Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney

Highly rated by former clients, who praise his warm, knowledgeable courtside manner and his fierce determination to reduce or eliminate charges. An accomplished speaker, author, and leader in DUI defense statewide Kevin is well respected by judges, prosecutors, and other attorneys across the State of Washington for his expertise, integrity, and knowledge in the complicated forensic science area of impaired driving allegations.

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