by Susan Glass ’98
Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutors are a rare and unique breed—mostly because there is only one of us in most states. This program started out several years ago in states like Iowa and Florida where it was decided that prosecutors needed some help in impaired driving cases. In most prosecutors’ offices, the “traffic docket” (usually including DWIs) is assigned to the newest and least experienced attorneys. The idea is that these are low risk cases on which they can cut their teeth and learn how to be prosecutors. Unfortunately, the defense bar does not view impaired driving cases the same way. They tend to employ very skilled and experienced attorneys who specialize in these cases. As you can imagine, that usually doesn’t end well for the state. Because this was a typical experience around the country, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (the federal agency responsible for keeping our roads and highways safe) decided to start dedicating funds to help prosecutors become as skilled as the defense attorneys they were facing in impaired driving cases. And, thus was created the Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP).
As the TSRP for Missouri, I am responsible for training prosecutors and law enforcement officers on issues related to impaired driving. This has required me to develop an expertise in field sobriety testing, chemical testing for alcohol and drug concentrations in breath, blood and urine, the drug evaluation and classification program, and similar issues. I also assist them with difficult or new issues that may arise in these cases. In this role, I use many different skills—research and writing, public speaking, conference planning, and sometimes creative thinking. I get to work with officers and prosecutors from all over the state and help them to successfully arrest and prosecute impaired drivers. Although the topic is very specialized, the skills will transfer to many other types of jobs.
Because there is only one of these positions in each state (and because I plan to be in this one for a while yet), I can’t really offer advice to law students who are interested in this particular job. I can suggest that working for a governmental agency–whether small or large, whether state, county or municipal–will provide unmatched opportunities to do real legal work right away. You will have your own case load, you will get make a lot of your own decisions, and you will get to see a courtroom and try cases.
As a career public service attorney, I have helped to draft appellate opinions as a law clerk, written appellate briefs and appeared for oral argument in every appellate court in Missouri, handled cases in federal district court, appeared before the state Personnel Advisory Board, worked on legislative proposals, served on numerous committees, and recently helped draft an amicus brief that was filed in the United States Supreme Court on a Fourth Amendment issue that could impact law enforcement and prosecutors in every state. Government attorneys may not make the big bucks, but they do get to do the big work on the big cases!