Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
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At issue in this case is evidence discovered in a purse during an inventory of an impounded vehicle. A Hillsboro police officer observed defendant Tamara Fulmer driving a vehicle with expired registration tags. The officer initiated a stop, and defendant pulled over. The officer approached defendant and informed her of the reason for the stop. Defendant admitted not only that her registration tags were expired, but also that her driver’s license had expired and that she did not have insurance. The officer returned to the patrol vehicle, confirmed the information that defendant had given, and began writing a citation. The officer determined that defendant’s vehicle would need to be towed and impounded, as defendant could not legally drive it without a license or insurance, and it was blocking a bicycle lane. The officer called a second officer to assist. The first officer informed defendant that he would need to do an inventory of defendant's vehicle and told her to step out of the vehicle so the second officer could begin that process. Defendant exited the vehicle with her cell phone and a pack of cigarettes in her hand, but her purse remained on the passenger’s seat. Defendant neither asked to nor was told that she could remove additional items from the car. She stood near the patrol vehicle while the inventory took place. The second officer began the inventory by looking in defendant’s purse. In a wallet inside defendant’s purse, the officer found used syringes and a small amount of methamphetamine. Defendant was charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine. She moved to suppress the evidence found in her purse, arguing that the officers had unlawfully searched her purse. She acknowledged that, the Oregon Supreme Court previously recognized an inventory exception to the warrant requirement, but she asserted that the exception did not apply because the officers had not told her that she could remove her purse from her car. The trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress, determining that “the inventory search was valid and it was lawfully followed through [the] policy that’s been implemented by the City of Hillsboro.” The trial court also determined that the officers were not required to ask defendant if she wanted to take her purse with her before conducting the inventory. The Supreme Court concluded after review of the trial court record that the application of the inventory exception in this case violated defendant’s rights under Article I, section 9. The trial court therefore erred in denying her pretrial motion to suppress, and the resulting judgment of conviction had to be reversed. View "Oregon v. Fulmer" on Justia Law

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This interlocutory appeal involves the “unavailability as a witness” requirement under Oregon Evidence Code (OEC) 804(1), for purposes of applying an exception to the hearsay rule in a criminal case. The State served a subpoena on a key witness to testify against defendant Chad Iseli and made other efforts to ensure her attendance at trial, but she did not attend. The State therefore moved to introduce her earlier out-of- court statements under the “forfeiture-by-wrongdoing” exception to the hearsay rule, OEC 804(3)(g). The trial court found that the State had made substantial efforts to secure the witness’s attendance and that she had expressed safety concerns about testifying. It also found, in relation to the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exception, that defendant had engaged in intentional, wrongful conduct that had caused her absence. The court further determined, however, that the State had not established that the witness was unavailable because it had not sought a material witness warrant or a remedial contempt order. The court therefore denied the state’s motion to admit her earlier statements. The State appealed that ruling, and the Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that, particularly in light of defendant’s intentional, wrongful conduct, the State had satisfied the “process or other reasonable means” requirement of OEC 804(1)(e), thereby establishing that the witness was unavailable. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding that while the trial court was incorrect to view certain facts as categorically irrelevant to the “unavailability as a witness” determination under OEC 804(1)(e). "Ultimately, though, when we add those facts to the calculus, we again conclude that the trial court’s ultimate ruling - that the state did not satisfy the “other reasonable means” component and, therefore, did not establish that the victim was unavailable - was correct. View "Oregon v. Iseli" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Pedro Martinez was ‘playing with’ a gun, and asked the victim for his wallet. The victim refused. Petitioner then asked the victim to get out of his car, and the victim refused that request, too, saying "you ain’t getting my wallet and you ain’t getting my car." Petitioner said, "Well, then I’m going to have to shoot you." As the victim tried to drive away, petitioner did just that: shooting the victim once in the arm. The victim testified that his car already was moving when petitioner fired; the victim believed it was possible that the car bumped petitioner’s hand, causing him to lose some control of the gun when he pulled the trigger. The victim drove the short distance to his home and called 9-1-1. He was transported to a hospital. A doctor who treated the victim testified that the bullet broke the victim’s arm and fragments traveled to his chest, coming within inches of multiple blood vessels. Petitioner was indicted on several counts, though the only counts relevant here charged petitioner with first-degree robbery and attempted aggravated felony murder. He sought post-conviction relief, contending that his counsel had been constitutionally inadequate by failing to argue that those crimes should be merged. The post-conviction court granted summary judgment against petitioner, concluding that he had not been prejudiced by his counsel’s failure to object, because as a matter of law the sentences would not merge. A majority of the Court of Appeals panel affirmed, On review, the presented to the Oregon Supreme Court was whether petitioner’s convictions should have been merged under ORS 161.067(1). The Court concluded they should have, reversed the trial and appellate courts, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Martinez v. Cain" on Justia Law

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The state charged defendant Joshua Andrews with two crimes: one count of fourth- degree assault, and one count of harassment. At trial, the state presented evidence that defendant drove to the victim’s place of work, began yelling at him, spat on him, and punched him in the face, knocking out his tooth bridge. The jury acquitted defendant on the assault charge but convicted him of harassment. Post-trial, the state asked the court to impose restitution for the cost of replacing the victim’s tooth bridge. Defendant objected, arguing that the trial court did not have statutory authority to do so. Defendant unsuccessfully argued that restitution was permitted only when a trial court could conclude, from the defendant’s conviction, that the defendant engaged in the criminal act that formed the basis for the award of restitution, and that, in this case, the trial court could not reach that conclusion: the act that formed the basis for the victim’s damages was the punch, and the jury could have convicted defendant of harassment without finding that defendant had punched the victim. Defendant appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed defendant’s petition for review, and, because it concluded the trial court could not award restitution under ORS 137.106, it reversed. View "Oregon v. Andrews" on Justia Law

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Consolidated cases concerned two defendants who were convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), a crime ordinarily a misdemeanor but that, in each case, was elevated to a felony based on the defendant’s two prior convictions from other jurisdictions. The common question these cases presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review was whether the foreign laws under which defendants were convicted were “statutory counterparts” to ORS 813.010, the statute criminalizing DUII in Oregon. After analyzing the relevant statutes, the Supreme Court concluded the appropriate inquiry required “close element matching,” between ORS 813.010 and the foreign offense, an approach that the Court has previously employed in giving legal effect to convictions from other jurisdictions. Applying that standard to defendants’ foreign convictions, the Court concluded that none of the convictions at issue in this were under a statutory counterpart to ORS 813.010. View "Oregon v. Guzman" on Justia Law

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Defendant and the victim had two children together. Defendant and the victim were formerly in a relationship, but they broke up before the victim moved into the house where the unlawful entry at the center of this case took place. Although the victim previously had allowed defendant to visit their children at her house, defendant had never lived there, and the victim had made it clear to defendant that he was no longer welcome. On the day in question, defendant came to the house and told the victim that he wanted to shower and talk. She refused to let him inside and made sure to lock all the doors and windows before she left for work, fearing that defendant would try to come in while she was away. After the victim left, defendant broke into the house and destroyed a number of the victim’s possessions, including a new television and several lamps. He intentionally cut his arm with a knife, bleeding on various pieces of her living room furniture. Defendant sent the victim text messages with pictures of his bleeding arm as well as messages blaming her for problems in his life. Based on those pictures, the victim realized defendant was in her house. The police were called and arrested defendant. Defendant was eventually charged with, among other things, first-degree burglary constituting domestic violence and second-degree criminal mischief. The question before the Oregon Supreme Court was whether a person commits the crime of first-degree burglary when the person enters a dwelling unlawfully without the intent to commit an additional crime and then develops that intent while unlawfully present in the dwelling. The Supreme Court held that forming the intent to commit an additional crime while unlawfully present after an initial unlawful entry constitutes first-degree burglary under ORS 164.225. View "Oregon v. Henderson" on Justia Law

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The post-conviction court granted petitioner Keith Ogle relief on the ground that, in the underlying criminal case, petitioner’s defense counsel failed to provide adequate and effective representation because he failed to employ an investigator, and that failure prejudiced petitioner. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the post-conviction court had erred because it granted petitioner relief on ground that petitioner had not alleged in his post-conviction petition. In doing so, the Oregon Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals relied on a post-conviction statute, ORS 138.550(3), and cases interpreting that statute, for the proposition that any ground for relief that was not alleged in a petition was deemed waived. The Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred in relying on ORS 138.550(3). "That provision is a res judicata provision. It governs the effect of a post-conviction proceeding on a subsequent post-conviction proceeding. It does not preclude a post-conviction court from addressing an unpleaded ground for relief within a single post-conviction case. Whether a court can address an unpleaded ground for relief is governed by the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure, and ORCP 23 B allows a court to address an unpleaded ground if it has been tried by express or implied consent." The parties disputed: (1) whether petitioner’s post-conviction petition encompassed the basis on which the post-conviction court granted relief; and (2) if it did not, whether the post-conviction court could grant relief on that basis anyway because the parties litigated it. "Even if the petition did not encompass the basis on which the post-conviction court granted relief, the court could consider that basis because the parties had litigated it." View "Ogle v. Nooth" on Justia Law

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Defendant John Hedgpeth challenged his conviction for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) by driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08 percent. The record consisted solely of evidence that a breathalyzer test measured defendant’s BAC as .09 percent nearly two hours after he drove and that defendant had consumed no additional alcohol in the interim. The Court of Appeals agreed with defendant that the state’s evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that defendant drove with a BAC of at least .08 percent. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed the state’s petition for review to consider whether “common knowledge” of the proposition that blood alcohol levels dissipate over time permitted a factfinder reasonably to infer that defendant drove with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit from evidence that defendant’s blood alcohol level two hours later was .09 percent, with no consumption in the interim. On those bare facts, the Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court that something more than the generic proposition that blood alcohol levels dissipate over time was needed to permit a nonspeculative inference that the defendant drove with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. View "Oregon v. Hedgpeth" on Justia 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