Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant argued his due process rights were violated when the trial judge initially imposed a sentence of 60 months’ probation on a misdemeanor conviction and on remand imposed a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment for the same misdemeanor. The sentence was for one conviction out of several that arose out of the same criminal incident. On the other convictions, his initial sentence included 170 months’ imprisonment; on remand, his sentence for the single other conviction was 75 months’ imprisonment. Defendant argued that, in increasing the sentence on his misdemeanor conviction, the judge violated the rule against vindictiveness set out in North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 US 711 (1969) and Oregon v. Partain, 239 P3d 232 (2010). Defendant argued that a presumption of vindictiveness should have applied in his case because there was a “reasonable likelihood” of actual vindictiveness, based on the fact that the same judge imposed the initial and subsequent sentences, and the fact that when analyzed under the remainder aggregate approach, defendant’s second sentence was “more severe” than the first. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the mere fact that the same judge presides over an initial and subsequent proceeding does not warrant the presumption of vindictiveness. The Court also rejected defendant’s claim that his later sentence was “more severe” because the trial increased the sentence for one of his convictions: “the correct approach is to compare the aggregate original sentence to the aggregate sentence on remand.” Because defendant’s sentence on remand was not “more severe” than his initial sentence, there was no presumption of an improper motive on the part of the trial judge. Defendant presented no other evidence that the trial court acted vindictively or out of an improper motive when sentencing him on remand. View "Febuary v. Oregon" on Justia Law

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Defendant, who was intellectually disabled, made an as-applied challenge to his 75-month mandatory minimum prison sentence for first-degree sexual abuse, on the ground that it violates Article I, section 16, of the Oregon Constitution, and the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibit sentences that are disproportionate to the offense for which they are imposed. The trial court noted that defendant was intellectually disabled, but the court did not indicate that it had considered that factor in its proportionality analysis, and the court ruled that it lacked authority to consider the availability of rehabilitative treatment for defendant in a nonincarcerative setting, unless it first could conclude that the prison term mandated by ORS 137.700(2)(a)(P) (“Measure 11”) was disproportionate. The court concluded that the Measure 11 sentence was not disproportionate. The Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred when it compared the gravity of defendant’s offense and the severity of the Measure 11 sentence, because the court failed to consider evidence of defendant’s intellectual disability when that evidence, if credited, would establish that the sentence would be arguably unconstitutional because it shows that defendant’s age-specific intellectual capacity fell below the minimum age level of criminal responsibility for a child. However, the Court declined to consider defendant’s argument on review that the availability of rehabilitative treatment was relevant to the gravity of his offense, because defendant failed to adequately develop that argument within the context of this court’s analytical framework for proportionality challenges under Article I, section 16. View "Oregon v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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A Washington State Trooper had probable cause to believe that defendant was violating Washington traffic laws and initiated a stop in Washington; however, the trooper did not complete the stop until both he and defendant had travelled across the state line into Oregon. In a subsequent prosecution for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the trooper’s stop, arguing that the trooper had violated defendant’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Oregon Constitution. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that, although Oregon law did not grant the trooper authority to stop defendant in Oregon, the evidence was constitutionally obtained and admissible. The Court reversed the contrary decision of the Court of Appeals, and affirmed the circuit court’s judgment of conviction. View "Oregon v. Keller" on Justia Law

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Did defendant intend to consent to the search of closed containers inside his backpack? The Oregon Supreme Court found it was unclear whether the trial court so understood the inquiry before it, and, the Supreme Court concluded that opposing inferences permissibly could have been drawn from the evidence as to that issue. Before his trial on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, defendant moved to suppress the state’s primary evidence, drugs that a police officer found in a warrantless but purportedly consensual search of defendant’s backpack, on the ground that they were obtained in violation the Oregon Constitution. The trial court denied the motion and defendant was convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that defendant’s consent to the search of his backpack did not extend to untying and looking into an opaque grocery bag, inside the backpack, in which the drugs were found. The state sought review of that decision, arguing that defendant’s unqualified consent to the police officer’s generalized request to search the backpack should be deemed on the record to encompass consent to open any closed but unlocked containers found inside. The Supreme Court concluded that the state’s argument did not comport with Article I, section 9. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals, and vacated the judgment convicting defendant. The case was remanded to the circuit court to reconsider its suppression decision under the correct standard. View "Oregon v. Blair" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division (DMV) of the Department of Transportation suspended defendant Dorothy Rafeh’s driver’s license for three years for refusing to submit voluntarily to a blood alcohol test. Approximately two and one-half years later, defendant was stopped while driving without a license, and the state charged her with driving while suspended (DWS). The question that this case presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether the federal Confrontation Clause prohibited the admission, in defendant’s DWS trial, of an earlier certification that defendant had been given notice that the state intended to suspend her driver’s license. The trial court admitted the certification over defendant’s objection, and the jury found her guilty of DWS. The Court of Appeals summarily affirmed the resulting judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Oregon v. Rafeh" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case was the scope of a criminal defendant’s right to self-representation when that right is invoked in the middle of trial. In this case, the trial court concluded that defendant had no right to seek self-representation mid-trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the ground that the trial court’s decision reflected an “apparent” concern about potential disruption of the trial and, because of that concern, did not amount to an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court held that, although Article I, section 11, of the Oregon Constitution established a criminal defendant’s right to represent himself or herself in a criminal proceeding, the right was not unqualified. In particular, when the right is asserted well after trial commences, the trial court retains discretion to weigh its exercise against the constitutional obligation to preserve the integrity and fairness of the proceeding, as well as the court’s interest in ensuring an orderly and expeditious trial. If a trial court exercises that discretion to deny a defendant’s motion for self-representation, it should make a record that reflects how it exercised that discretion. View "Oregon v. Hightower" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court explained that, in a criminal action, when the state proffers evidence of uncharged acts, either to prove a defendant’s propensity to commit charged crimes under OEC 404(4), or for a nonpropensity purpose under OEC 404(3), and a defendant objects to the admission of that evidence, the trial court must conduct balancing under OEC 403, according to its terms, to determine whether the probative value of the challenged evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Defendant was charged with 12 counts of child sexual abuse. Before trial, the state filed a motion to permit it to introduce evidence that defendant also had sexually abused a different child. The state argued that that evidence was relevant for a number of nonpropensity purposes under OEC 404(3). Defendant countered that, because his defense was not mistaken identity or lack of intent, but, instead, that the charged acts of abuse had not occurred, the proffered evidence was not relevant for a nonpropensity purpose. Further, defendant argued, even if the evidence was minimally relevant, its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and it was therefore inadmissible under OEC 403. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, reversed the trial court’s judgment of conviction, and remanded this case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Baughman" on Justia Law

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The trial court admitted other acts evidence over defendant’s objection and without conducting OEC 403 balancing. Defendant was charged with three counts of first degree sexual abuse of K and T, the daughters of defendant’s ex-girlfriend. The Court of Appeals concluded that that failure to balance was error apparent on the record under ORAP 5.45(1), in light of the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision in “Oregon v. Williams,” (346 P3d 455 (2015)), and exercised its discretion to correct the error. The Court of Appeals vacated defendant’s convictions and remanded to the trial court for an OEC 403 balancing, and for a determination of whether defendant was prejudiced by the admission of the challenged evidence. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court’s judgment of conviction. View "Oregon v. Zavala" on Justia Law

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In this prosecution for failure to perform the duties of a driver, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving, the trial court admitted other acts evidence over defendant’s objection and, the State conceded, without conducting OEC 403 balancing. Defendant argued the trial court erred in admitting that other acts evidence. Because the Court of Appeals could not conclude that the trial court’s error was harmless, it reversed defendant’s convictions and remanded the case for a new trial. The State argued that the Oregon Supreme Court should reverse the Court of Appeals and affirm the judgment of the trial court because the trial court was not required to conduct “traditional” OEC 403 balancing and admission of the challenged evidence did not violate due process. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and remanded this case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Mazziotti" on Justia Law

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After defendant Sean McNally refused to comply with a police officer’s order to leave a bus station, the officer arrested him and charged him with, among other things, the misdemeanor offense of interfering with a peace officer. At defendant’s subsequent trial, defendant asked the trial court to instruct the jury that it should acquit him of the charge of interfering with a peace officer if it found that he had engaged in passive resistance. The trial court refused, and the jury found defendant guilty on all charged counts. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s conviction for interfering with a peace officer, holding that defendant had not been entitled to a passive resistance instruction, because only someone who is performing specific acts or techniques commonly associated with governmental protest or civil disobedience can be said to be engaged in “passive resistance.” After its review, the Oregon Supreme Court held the phrase “passive resistance” referred to noncooperation with a peace officer that does not involve violence or other active conduct by the defendant. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision affirming defendant’s conviction for interfering with a peace officer and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings; the Court otherwise affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Oregon v. McNally" on Justia Law