Drug Recognition Expert Witness Testifies Re: Felony DUI

While DUI trials are common, a trial on a charge of felony driving under the influence of drugs is rare. Palmer, AK police officer and drug-recognition expert witness Peter Steen says most defendants accept a plea agreement. Andrian Marutsheff, 40, charged with driving under the influence of a prescription sedative, decided to go to trial. The Anchorage Daily News also reports:

The problem with trials involving drivers impaired by drugs, Steen said, is that the evidence allowed into court is usually limited to toxicology reports from blood draws and officers’ observations of how impaired the driver is. Without a drug recognition expert it’s tough to knit the two pieces together, Steen said. Prosecutors could show the driver was impaired and blood tests might turn up positive for a certain drug.

Steen’s turn on the stand was the first time a drug recognition expert was certified to testify as an expert witness in Superior Court anywhere in the state, Steen said. In only one other case – a misdemeanor trial in District Court in Anchorage – did a certified drug recognition expert testify, Steen said. He hopes his testimony will set a precedent for more such testimony.

“This is case law happening,” Steen said.