In the fight against impaired driving, adding more law enforcement officers doesn’t always translate into more convictions or lead to fewer impaired drivers on Idaho highways.
Welcome Jared Olson, a prosecuting attorney’s best ally.
Olson is Idaho’s first Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP) and serves as a liaison and resource for prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials and other stakeholders to draw on as they work to catch and convict impaired drivers across the state.
“The DUI law itself is very long and involved,” Olson said. He added that the newest prosecutors, fresh out of law school, end up handling many of the DUI cases and are often pitted against more experienced defense attorneys.
“I hope to help level the playing field,” he said.
Olson said prosecutors are challenged to overcome perceptions by juries about what constitutes drunk driving.
“What we’re talking about is likely over-the-limit ‘buzzed’ driving,” he said.
Desensitization is another reason juries sometimes have a problem convicting impaired drivers. “Meth is illegal, alcohol is not,” he said.
Although he was hired by the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association last October, money for the position came through a grant funded by ITD’s Office of Highway Operations and Safety. Idaho is one of 31 states that use TSRPs, said Kevin Bechen with OHOS.
During 2005, 100 people were killed in driver-impaired crashes in Idaho.
“Imagine what would happen if we had 100 murders in Idaho in one year,” Olson said. “There would no doubt be some sort of statewide project to stop it.”
In his role as the state’s TSRP, Olson will travel throughout Idaho offering training to local prosecutors, law enforcement professionals and judges. He also will provide resource assistance including a brief bank, expert witness bank, predicate questions, specific case analysis and individual technical assistance.
“I may not know all the answers, but I can probably find someone who does,” Olson said.
He began his career in criminal justice as an emergency dispatcher while working on a bachelor’s degree at Weber State University (Ogden, Utah) and attending the Utah POST Academy at night. He later worked as a law enforcement officer for the Weber State University Police Department and then as a detective before attending law school at the University of Idaho.
Most recently, he worked as the assistant chief criminal
deputy for the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office where his caseload
included all felony drug crimes and felony DUIs.
“As a law enforcement officer, DUIs were not my favorite thing,” he said. “However, I really enjoyed prosecuting DUI cases. It was really fun for me as a prosecutor.”
Olson hopes to provide more regional training opportunities along with online training. He would like to include judges in the programs offered and develop additional training for breath testing specialists.
The solution to the DUI problem requires a continuing, coordinated effort, he said. “I plan to be in every courthouse in Idaho by the end of three years.”
“If we help each other meet our goals,” he said,“there’s really no reason a DUI crime should ever occur.”