Deborah Ahrens

William C. Oltman Professor of Teaching Excellence and Associate Professor of Law
Curriculum Vitae


Sullivan Hall 459
(206) 398-4159


B.A., Brown University, 1994
M.P.P., Harvard University, 1996
J.D., magna cum laude, New York University School of Law, 2000
NYU Law Review senior articles editor


Criminal Law & Procedure
Sentencing and Plea Bargaining


Evidence (EVID-200-A)


Deborah Ahrens is a tenured Associate Professor who teaches and writes about criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence. Before joining the faculty at Seattle University, Professor Ahrens served as a law clerk for Judge Amalya Kearse of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a legal fellow at the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project, an Assistant Public Defender at the Richland County (South Carolina) Public Defender, and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law. She earned an AB in Public Policy from Brown University, a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and her JD Magna Cum Laude from New York University, where she was the senior articles editor of the Law Review.

Professor Ahrens' scholarship focuses on the cultural significance of contemporary policing practices and criminal sanctioning regimes, with particular emphasis on drug policy and on the regulation of student speech and conduct. Her articles have appeared in a variety of journals including the American Criminal Law Review, the Florida State Law Review, and the Missouri Law Review. Her current research focuses on the Supreme Court's recent embrace of a broader understanding of the role of the criminal defense attorney in its criminal procedure decisions, on the rise of school uniforms and restrictive student dress codes, and on some of the unexplored frontiers in the legal regulation of alternative criminal sanctions. She is highly regarded teacher who was voted Professor of the Year by the May 2014 graduating class and a frequent speaker at academic and professional events on a wide variety of criminal procedure, evidence, and sentencing issues.

Recent Activity

In the News

What does a federal lawsuit mean for Seattle's safe injection sites?

February 08, 2019 | Crosscut

Professor Deborah Ahrens contrasts support for marijuana legalization with attitudes toward opioids.

Does Gov. Inslee's marijuana pardon measure not go far enough?

January 10, 2019 | KIRO News Radio

Professor Deborah Ahrens says the state should be more proactive in clearing marijuana convictions.

The KOMO Politicast: Polls and Punishment

October 14, 2018 | KOMO News

Professor Deborah Ahrens explains why the Washington Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional.

With Kavanaugh vote on the horizon, Seattle speaks out

October 04, 2018 | Crosscut

Professor Deborah Ahrens describes the law school's efforts to process the Kavanaugh controversy.

'History in the making': Kavanaugh hearing becomes the day’s lesson for law students and others

September 27, 2018 | The Seattle Times

Professors Brooke Coleman and Deborah Ahrens, along with law students, comment on the hearing.

VIDEO: Tackling the Kavanaugh hearing

September 27, 2018 | KIRO

Professors Brooke Coleman and Deborah Ahrens debrief with students after the Senate committee hearing.

Seattle U law students disappointed with the politics of the Kavanaugh hearing

September 27, 2018 | KOMO News

Professors Brooke Coleman and Deborah Ahrens lead students in a legal discussion after the hearing.

DNA testing to unite immigrant families is more complicated than it seems

July 09, 2018 | KUOW

Problems abound when choosing the fastest way to reunite families, says Professor Deborah Ahrens.