Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Defendant Gregory Stewart knocked on a woman’s door early one morning. The woman thought she recognized defendant and let him inside her apartment. Shortly thereafter, the woman realized she had mistaken defendant for someone else, but she did not ask him to leave. Instead, the two sat in the living room and smoked marijuana. Defendant made the woman uncomfortable and later followed her to her bedroom, prompting the woman to ask defendant to leave. The woman refused defendant’s request to stay, he asked for sandwich bags. Defendant commented that he “needed to make some money,” removed a bag from his pocket, and went into the bathroom, where he spilled a substance on the floor. When defendant finished in the bathroom, he used the woman’s phone to call for a ride. Defendant said she could have whatever remained of the substance on her floor and left. The woman then called 9-1-1, reporting that defendant spilled a “white, powdery substance” on her bathroom floor, asked if she or anyone that she knew wanted to “buy some” of the substance, and stated several times that he “needed to make some money.” Police located defendant near the apartment, discovering small bags containing methamphetamine on defendant and arrested him. Police also determined that the substance on the bathroom floor was methamphetamine and, after transporting defendant, found a glove containing methamphetamine in their patrol car. Defendant was charged with various crimes, including unlawful delivery of methamphetamine. In this case, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that to prove that a delivery “is for consideration” under ORS 475.900 (2)(a) and that an enhanced sentence is therefore merited, the state is required to offer evidence that a defendant either entered into an agreement to sell or completed a sale of the specified drugs. The Court held that evidence a defendant possessed the drugs with the intent to sell them is insufficient. The Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and remanded this case for resentencing. View "Oregon v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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Defendant Gregory Stewart knocked on a woman’s door early one morning. The woman thought she recognized defendant and let him inside her apartment. Shortly thereafter, the woman realized she had mistaken defendant for someone else, but she did not ask him to leave. Instead, the two sat in the living room and smoked marijuana. Defendant made the woman uncomfortable and later followed her to her bedroom, prompting the woman to ask defendant to leave. The woman refused defendant’s request to stay, he asked for sandwich bags. Defendant commented that he “needed to make some money,” removed a bag from his pocket, and went into the bathroom, where he spilled a substance on the floor. When defendant finished in the bathroom, he used the woman’s phone to call for a ride. Defendant said she could have whatever remained of the substance on her floor and left. The woman then called 9-1-1, reporting that defendant spilled a “white, powdery substance” on her bathroom floor, asked if she or anyone that she knew wanted to “buy some” of the substance, and stated several times that he “needed to make some money.” Police located defendant near the apartment, discovering small bags containing methamphetamine on defendant and arrested him. Police also determined that the substance on the bathroom floor was methamphetamine and, after transporting defendant, found a glove containing methamphetamine in their patrol car. Defendant was charged with various crimes, including unlawful delivery of methamphetamine. In this case, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that to prove that a delivery “is for consideration” under ORS 475.900 (2)(a) and that an enhanced sentence is therefore merited, the state is required to offer evidence that a defendant either entered into an agreement to sell or completed a sale of the specified drugs. The Court held that evidence a defendant possessed the drugs with the intent to sell them is insufficient. The Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and remanded this case for resentencing. View "Oregon v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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Defendant Israel Tena, Jr. was convicted of felony fourth-degree assault constituting domestic violence. On appeal, he challenged the admission of evidence that he had previously assaulted two other intimate partners within the last 14 years. The state argued that the evidence was admissible to prove intent, and the Court of Appeals agreed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the evidence of the two prior incidents of domestic violence were impermissible character evidence. Therefore, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Oregon v. Tena" on Justia Law

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Following a bench trial, petitioner Justin Behrle was convicted of three crimes and sentenced accordingly. After entry of judgment and an unsuccessful appeal to the Court of Appeals, petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging one claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, and, in that claim, specified five instances in which his trial counsel allegedly failed to exercise reasonable professional skill and judgment. Petitioner sought an order reversing his convictions and sentences. After a hearing, the post-conviction court found that, although three of petitioner’s specifications were without merit, two were well-taken. As a result, the court stated, it would “overturn the convictions in order [that] they be remanded back to the trial court.” The court then entered a judgment allowing the petition, effectively setting aside petitioner’s convictions and remanding the case to the trial court for a new trial. Defendant (the superintendent) appealed the post-conviction judgment, and petitioner filed a notice of cross-appeal, raising issues on which he had not prevailed in the post-conviction proceedings. The Court of Appeals determined that petitioner’s notice was untimely and dismissed his cross-appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed review in this case to determine whether the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed petitioner’s cross- appeal as untimely. After it did so, petitioner filed his brief with the Court of Appeals and included cross-assignments of error seeking the same relief that he sought in his cross-appeal. The Supreme Court concluded petitioner’s cross-assignments of error were permitted by ORAP 5.57(2) and that resolving the merits of the issue at issue would no longer have a practical effect on the rights of the parties. The Court therefore dismissed the petition for review as moot. View "Behrle v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant Jose Roberto Fierro Villagomez guilty of unlawful possession and unlawful delivery of methamphetamine. The presumptive sentence for those crimes was probation. However, under ORS 475.900(1)(b), when the state establishes that those crimes constituted commercial drug offenses, the presumptive sentence was imprisonment. To prove a commercial drug offense, the state had to establish any three out of eleven statutorily enumerated factors, one of which is that the “delivery” of the drug was “for consideration.” This case presented the question of whether that factor could be proved by evidence that the defendant possessed the drugs with an intent to sell them, or, instead, required the state to prove a completed sale of drugs or an existing agreement to sell them. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the legislature intended the latter, and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Oregon v. Villagomez" on Justia Law

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This case presented a narrow question regarding the meaning of ORS 162.375(1), which defined the crime of “initiating a false report.” Defendant Robert Branch was convicted of that crime based on evidence that, in response to questions from sheriff’s deputies about a report that defendant left the scene of a traffic collision without exchanging the required driver information, defendant falsely claimed that he left the scene because the other driver had pointed a gun at him. Defendant argued on appeal of his conviction to the Oregon Supreme Court that a person does not “initiat[e] a false report” within the meaning of ORS 162.375(1), if the person lies in response to police questioning “about a report someone else initiated” and, thus, that the evidence was insufficient to permit his conviction under that statute. Although the Supreme Court agreed the legislature did not intend the statute to apply when a person merely responds to police questioning with false information regarding the circumstances of the same crime or emergency situation about which the person is being questioned, defendant’s proposed rule swept too broadly. The Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended the phrase “initiates a false alarm or report” to reach, at a minimum, the conduct of a person who, during questioning about one crime or emergency situation, falsely alleges new circumstances to which the law enforcement agency is reasonably likely to respond as a separate crime on an emergency basis. View "Oregon v. Branch" on Justia Law

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In an action for post-conviction relief, petitioner Charles Richardson successfully contended that his defense counsel had rendered constitutionally inadequate representation during a presentence hearing concerning whether petitioner was a dangerous offender who suffered from a “severe personality disorder” as provided in ORS 161.725(1)(a). Petitioner’s defense counsel cross-examined the psychiatrist who testified for the state, but counsel had not investigated significant records regarding petitioner’s background or consulted with an expert before the hearing, nor did he introduce evidence from a defense expert at the hearing. The jury found that petitioner suffered from a severe personality disorder, and the trial court sentenced petitioner to a lengthy prison term as a dangerous offender. After concluding that petitioner had been prejudiced as a result, the trial court vacated petitioner’s dangerous-offender sentence and remanded the case for resentencing. The Court of Appeals affirmed based on one of the post-conviction court’s conclusions: that defense counsel had provided inadequate assistance through failure to investigate and consult an expert and that petitioner suffered prejudice as a result. The State appealed, arguing the Court of Appeals erred for two alternative reasons: (1) defense counsel made a reasonable tactical decision to rely on cross-examination without consulting an expert; and (2) regardless, petitioner did not establish the required prejudice. The Oregon Supreme Court found no reversible error in the appellate or post-conviction relief court decisions, and affirmed. View "Richardson v. Belleque" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the legal sufficiency of the Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 21 (2018). IP 21, if enacted, would alter the Oregon tax with respect to certain tobacco products in four ways: (1) increase the tax on cigarettes by 100 mills per cigarette, or $2.00 per pack; (2) eliminate the 50-cent cap on cigar taxes; (3) require that all moneys received from the new cigarette tax be first deposited with the state treasurer and, after the payment of any refunds for overpayments, be credited to the Public Health Account, “to be used for the funding of local public health authorities in all areas of the state for public health programs;” and (4) the tax and the use of cigarette-tax revenues would apply retroactively to the distribution of cigarettes and tobacco products on or after January 1, 2018. In this case, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that, in two respects, the Attorney General’s certified ballot title did not substantially comply with the law. Therefore, it was referred back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Wilson/Fitz v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court dismissed this ballot title challenge without addressing the merits. The Court determined it did not have authority to consider a ballot title challenge if the underlying initiative measure had not satisfied all the statutory prerequisites for obtaining a ballot title in the first place. View "Unger v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether, when a defendant files a motion to suppress all statements made during an encounter with police, and the trial court’s ruling addresses some (but not all) of those statements, the defendant must again request suppression of the statements that the court failed to address to preserve the matter for appeal. The state charged defendant Keith Schmidtke with, among other things, identity theft, first-degree theft, and second-degree escape. Defendant filed a single pre-trial suppression motion in which he sought to suppress all of the statements he made during his encounter with the officer, both before and after Miranda warnings were given, as well as some physical evidence. The trial court issued a written order in which it suppressed some physical evidence, denied suppression of other physical evidence, denied suppression of the post-Miranda statements, and gave defendant leave to file a motion to controvert a search warrant based on the suppression ruling. The order, however, did not explicitly address defendant’s motion as to the suppression of the pre-Miranda statements. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed the denial of his motion to suppress. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded defendant need not request suppression of the statements a second time. View "Oregon v. Schmidtke" on Justia Law