Amber Hahn is an assistant district attorney for Dunn County, specializing in drug and sexual assault cases. Her path to what some would call a difficult calling was built from a combination of case experience and the work she did on the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
 
 
Amber does a lot of training in her profession, and said that she loves to share cat memes and gifs. She shared quite a few during her presentation, as well as photos of her own cats, Sputnik, who she calls “lawyer kitty.”
 
After graduation from law school, she worked with a nonprofit firm doing family law work, then started with the state of Wisconsin in 2009 as a prosecutor. Prosecutors review police reports and make charging decisions, then represent the State of Wisconsin as the case proceeds through the criminal process.
 
As an assistant DA in St. Croix County, Amber moved from a largely traffic caseload to handling every type of case, focusing on drug felonies. She worked on the Aaron Schaffhausen case in 2012-13, and that experience led her to apply to the Wisconsin attorney general (AG) office, where she started working in 2015.
 
Amber conducted training for law enforcement and was also called in on complex cases throughout the state. For example, offices with small staff might call on the AG office for major cases they needed assistance on. She also developed a specialty in the Opiate Initiative, wherein she prosecuted and did a lot of training in prominent opiate-related crimes.

A notable contribution

Amber said that she was proud to be a part of the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit initiative, and served on the team that gathered and tested large numbers of untested sexual assault kits from across the nation. Kits are tested at crime labs and used as evidence in cases. The problem of untested kits is a national one. Wisconsin alone discovered over 6,000 untested kits across the state.

As part of the project, the kits were inventoried, sorted, and next steps determined. More than 4,400 kits were designated for testing. Once testing was completed, a multi-disciplinary team of law enforcement, administrators, politicians, scientists, prosecutors and others worked together to determine next steps. Out of the kits tested, over 1,700 had a foreign DNA profile (someone not the victim) collected. Amber was on the team that collected over 1,400 kits and performed investigative reviews.
 
They would read the case, review the DNA and determine whether the case should proceed. Actions might include reaching out to victims and update them to the progress on the situation and discuss whether the case should proceed. In some cases, victims could be notified and provided results from the kit testing. Even if a case didn’t go forward, providing the information to victims could be helpful. Of the 1,400 cases reviewed, 14 have been reopened and seven are still in progress. Amber handled four of the 14 cases to completion  before she moved to River Falls.
 
The project helped reveal where there are problems in our criminal justice system in the area of sexual assault and allowed them to collect information for future improvement such as increased training in the area. The project completely changed the process for those who are victims of sexual assault, offering more options and preserving evidence in a more scientific and sound way. Victims have nine-and-a-half years to make decisions about prosecuting cases. And the whole process has been improved to help avoid this problem from ever happening again.

A change in career emphasis

Sensitive crimes was not her expertise before this project, but talking to the victims during this project and hearing about their outcomes had a big impact on Amber's life and prepared her for her current work, which she finds interesting and important. She moved to River Falls to raise her family here and took a position in Dunn County, handling mainly drug cases and prosecuting all sexual assault cases.
 
Amber was born in Iowa, and grew up in many places. She said she usually claims Chippewa Falls as her home town, as that is where she graduated from high school. She received her BA degree from Drake University in Des Moines and her JD from UW Madison Law School.
 
“I’m super excited to be part of River Falls Rotary and to be back in River Falls,” she said.
 
Amber plays the violin and is a past member of the St. Croix Valley Symphony Orchestra. We couldn’t extract a promise of a future Zoom concert, but she didn’t completely dismiss the request.
 
She is married to Scott and has two children ages 5 and 3.  When she is not working, she spends a lot of time with her kids, helping her daughter practice piano, working on art and other projects. She has a really good "car voice," largely employing that while she plays with her son. She also likes baking and trying to recreate baking show challenges during COVID.