Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Defendant Mario Arreola-Botello was lawfully stopped for failing to signal a turn and a lane change. During the stop, while defendant was searching for his registration and proof of insurance, the officer asked him about the presence of guns and drugs in the vehicle, and requested consent to search the vehicle. Defendant consented, and during the search, the officer found a controlled substance. Defendant contended that the officer expanded the permissible scope of the traffic stop when he asked about the contents of the vehicle and requested permission to search it because those inquiries were not related to the purpose of the stop. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with defendant that the trial court erred in denying defendant’s motion to suppress what the officer found, and reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Oregon v. Arreola-Botello" on Justia Law

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Two officers were in their patrol car when they saw defendant Eric Kreis in a restaurant parking lot around midnight. The restaurant had been closed for about 20 minutes, and the parking lot had recently been the site of several thefts. Defendant was standing “near” one of the approximately five cars in the lot, and the officers suspected that defendant might be trying to break into that car or might be attempting to commit DUII. While one officer ran the car’s plates, Mendez, an officer-in-training, approached defendant and initiated a conversation. Defendant did not provide any information in response to Mendez’s questions; instead, he left the parking lot and walked toward a paved pathway leading to the back of the restaurant. The two officers followed defendant and caught up with him as he stood on the restaurant’s back patio near the restaurant’s back door. One officer called out asking defendant’s name, and when he did not respond, the officers told defendant he was not free to leave. Defendant told the officers he did not have to talk to them. To one officer, defendant appeared angry and exhibited signs of intoxication. At some point, defendant was advised that if he did not cooperate, he would be arrested. He ultimately was, charged with interfering with a peace officer and with resisting arrest. After the state presented its case, defendant moved for judgment of acquittal on the interfering charge. Defendant argued that officers did not have reasonable suspicion that defendant had committed, or was about to commit, a criminal offense, and consequently, that neither his stop of defendant nor his order that defendant turn around to be handcuffed were lawful. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed the officer’s order was not a “lawful order” as that term was used in ORS 162.247(1)(b) and reversed defendant’s conviction. View "Oregon v. Kreis" on Justia Law

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This was a companion case to Penn v. Board of Parole, 365 Or 607 (2019). Like the petitioner in Penn, petitioner Brian Tuckenberry sought relief from a special condition of supervision, imposed on him by an order of the Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision, that required Tuckenberry to obtain permission from his parole officer before entering into any “intimate” relationship or encounter. But, unlike the petitioner in Penn, petitioner was unrepresented by counsel and did not raise the issues and arguments in his administrative review request to the board that he now raised before the Oregon Supreme Court. The board contended that, as a result, petitioner failed to exhaust administrative review as required by ORS 144.335(1)(b) and that his appeal, therefore, could not be considered on its merits. The Supreme Court concluded however, that: (1) petitioner objected to the special condition and complied with the statutory exhaustion requirement; and (2) the proceedings before the board were not of the sort that, under the general prudential exhaustion principles that ORS 144.335(1)(b) incorporated, would require petitioner to have raised the specific legal arguments that he raised here, on pain of being barred from judicial review of the board’s order. The Supreme Court did consider petitioner’s objections to the condition of post-prison supervision regulating his "intimate" relationships and encounters, and concluded, for reasons set out in Penn, that the condition was not lawfully imposed in accordance with the statute governing the board’s authority. View "Tuckenberry v. Board of Parole" on Justia Law

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When petitioner Prentice Penn was released from prison to post-prison supervision, the Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision included a special condition in its order requiring that petitioner not “enter into or participate in any intimate relationship or intimate encounters with any person (male or female) without the prior written permission” of his supervising officer. On appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, petitioner contended: (1) the board lacked statutory authority to impose the condition; and, (2) the condition was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it was vague or overbroad. The board noted that petitioner had completed his term of post-prison supervision and was no longer subject to the challenged condition; therefore, the board argued, a decision would not have a practical effect on petitioner’s rights and the case should have been dismissed. The Supreme Court determined that though petitioner’s appeal was moot, it was one that could and should have been decided under ORS 14.175, which provided an exception to the general rule (that moot cases should be dismissed) for cases in which a party alleges that an act, policy, or practice of a public body is contrary to law. On the merits of petitioner’s appeal, the Supreme Court held the board exceeded the scope of its statutory authority in imposing the special condition on petitioner. View "Penn v. Board of Parole" on Justia Law

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Police Officer Hopkins initiated a traffic stop of defendant Khalistan Harrison. As Hopkins approached defendant’s stopped vehicle, defendant stepped out of the car, left the driver’s side door open, and began walking away. Hopkins followed her on foot. Meanwhile, Officer Barrett arrived at the scene. In observing the open driver’s side door, Barrett saw the upper handle and cylinder of a handgun tucked barrel-down in the door’s interior pocket, which was located below the window and armrest and lower than the level of the driver’s seat. According to testimony from Hopkins, the handgun would have been readily accessible to the driver and not visible “when the door was closed when there was a driver in the driver’s seat and the vehicle was traveling down the road.” Defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. At trial, defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal (MJOA), arguing that the handgun was not “concealed” within the meaning of the statute. The trial court denied that motion. Defendant also requested that the trial court give a special jury instruction concerning the definition of “concealed.” The trial court declined to issue defendant’s requested instruction and gave a different instruction, which will be discussed below. Defendant was convicted, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court determined a handgun is “concealed” in a vehicle if the placement of the gun would fail to give reasonable notice of the gun’s presence, through ordinary observation, to a person actually coming into contact with the occupants of the vehicle, and communicating in a manner typical of such contact, such as through an open window. The Court determined the gun in this case was sufficiently “concealed” to support defendant’s conviction. View "Oregon v. Harrison" on Justia Law

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Defendant Shannon Carpenter was charged with hindering prosecution through concealment under ORS 162.325(1)(a). The State contended defendant had concealed a person for whom police had an arrest warrant. The State alleged defendant concealed that wanted person through allegedly deceptive statements about knowing the party or his whereabouts. The State also charged defendant with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance. Defendant appealed when the Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction for hindering prosecution. The issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's consideration centered on whether defendant “concealed” a person for whom a felony arrest warrant had been issued when, upon questioning by a police detective, defendant falsely denied knowing or associating with the wanted person. In response to defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal on the charge of hindering prosecution, the trial court concluded that defendant’s denials amounted to concealing the wanted person’s whereabouts, and it therefore denied defendant’s motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court concluded that, in requiring proof of “conceal[ing]” another person, ORS 162.325(1)(a) required the State to prove that defendant had hidden the wanted person from ordinary observation. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded the state’s evidence - defendant’s false denials of knowledge - did not satisfy that requirement. Conviction was reversed and the matter remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

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The State charged defendant Viktor Gensitskiy with one count of aggravated identity theft, based on his possession of files containing personal information regarding 27 other persons. Based on that same conduct, the State also charged defendant with 27 counts of identity theft. Defendant pleaded guilty to all the counts, but argued that his identity thefts merged into his aggravated identity theft because each of the identity thefts was a lesser-included offense of the aggravated identity theft. The trial court rejected defendant’s argument and entered separate convictions for each of the identity thefts and the aggravated identity theft. Defendant appealed, renewing his argument that his identity thefts merged into his aggravated identity theft because each of his identity thefts was a lesser-included offense of his aggravated identity theft. The State did not dispute that each of defendant’s identity thefts was a lesser-included offense of his aggravated identity theft, but argued that, because there were 27 victims, the trial court could impose 27 separate convictions. The Court of Appeals concurred with the state. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in failing to merge defendant’s multiple identity thefts into his aggravated identity theft. View "Oregon v. Gensitskiy" on Justia Law

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In 2012, defendant Victor Moreno-Hernandez, an adult man, met S, a thirteen-year-old girl. S moved in with defendant, and he had sex with her multiple times. He also supplied her with methamphetamine. Defendant introduced S to his eventual codefendant, Steven Toth, the manager of a strip club. Defendant and Toth agreed to have S work in the strip club, where she performed nude for customers and engaged in sexual acts with Toth and some of the club’s customers. Toth was paid for those acts of prostitution, and he split the proceeds with defendant. S ultimately left defendant and came into the legal custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS). After an investigation by law enforcement, defendant was charged with multiple crimes relating to his rape and sexual abuse of S. Defendant was convicted of two counts of second-degree rape, two counts of second-degree sodomy, two counts of second-degree unlawful sexual penetration, two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, one count of unlawful delivery of methamphetamine to a minor, and four counts of compelling prostitution. The trial court indicated that it was interested in imposing compensatory fines, as allowed by ORS 137.101(1), on those three compelling prostitution convictions. The issue defendant’s appeal raised for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the trial court properly sentenced defendant to pay three $50,000 compensatory fines. The Court arrived at the same outcome as the Court of Appeals- that it was error to impose the fine. However, in the Supreme Court’s view, “the legal error and the uncertainty as to what the trial court would have done had it approached sentencing as ORS 137.101 intended are reasons to remand.” The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Moreno-Hernandez" on Justia Law

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Defendant Steven Toth was the manager of a strip club in the Beaverton area. Victor Moreno-Hernandez brought S, a thirteen-year-old girl, to defendant’s strip club, where defendant and Moreno-Hernandez agreed that S would work at the club. While working at the strip club, S engaged in prostitution and the two men split the proceeds. In addition, defendant had sex with S. Ultimately, S was brought into the legal custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS). Defendant pleaded guilty to three counts relating to S: second-degree sodomy, first-degree sexual abuse, and compelling prostitution. He also pleaded guilty to a separate promoting prostitution charge that did not involve S. At sentencing, the trial court indicated that it was interested in imposing a compensatory fine and inquired into whether that was an available option in this case. The prosecutor stated that S's psychological counseling while in DHS custody resulted in economic damages; the trial court sentenced defendant to pay $150,000 as a compensatory fine for S's care. He appealed the imposition of the fine. The Court of Appeals reasoned that because “‘[t]he record contains no evidence that [the victim] ever incurred any objectively verifiable economic obligation for the treatment and, therefore, ever suffered any economic damages as a result of defendant’s crimes’” a remand was unnecessary. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred the trial court erred in imposing the compensatory fine, but concluded the matter was appropriate for remand to the trial court: "[w]e do not decide here whether a compensatory fine directed to DHS would be appropriate on this record, but it is an option for the trial court to consider on remand." View "Oregon v. Toth" on Justia Law

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Defendant Michael Sperou was charged with first-degree unlawful penetration for alleged crimes committed against a girl (“SC”) who belonged to the church defendant led as pastor. Before trial, the State disclosed it would call SC and six other women as witnesses, all whom would testify as to having been sexually abused by defendant years earlier while they were young girls attending his church. Defendant denied any abuse occurred, and moved to preclude the witnesses’ testimony. He also moved to prohibit the use of “victim” at trial to describe SC or the other accusers. The trial court denied both motions; defendant was convicted on all charges. On appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, defendant argued the trial court erred in denying his motions. The Supreme Court concluded that while the trial court did not err in refusing to categorically prohibit the prosecutor from referring to SC as a “victim,” use of the term by the other accusers would amount to impermissible vouching, and the trial court should have granted defendant’s motion to preclude such references. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court’s error in that regard was not harmless, and required a remand. View "Oregon v. Sperou" on Justia Law