If you've been charged with a criminal offense, then you may be wondering what to do next. In my years of practice, I've met with many clients and discussed their initial questions. To help you out, here are some answers to questions that my clients commonly ask me.
What is the first thing I should do if I recently was arrested?
Take a deep breath, drink a glass of water and begin to let go of some of your anxiety. Get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible. Do not talk about your case with anyone other than your prospective attorney. That attorney will become your marketing board and all messages about your case should go through your marketing board! Your consultation is confidential and cannot be used against you in court. In that appointment, make sure your attorney is the right fit for you and will be able to argue your case at trial if need be. Ask questions about the law and how it relates to your case.
Figure out what you are charged with, what punishments or jail time might be involved if you are convicted, and how the charges might impact your life prior to going to court. If your car has been towed, it is important to get it out of impound as soon as possible to avoid extra fees. It might be important to immediately get on top of an investigation but you should not begin contacting any witnesses until you have seen an attorney.
What is Measure 11?
Measure 11 was passed in 1994 as a citizen's referendum proposed by Crime Victims United to get tough on crime. It set mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes in the State of Oregon including Assault in the First or Second Degree, Manslaughter in the First or Second Degree, Murder, Rape in the First Degree, Sexual Abuse in the First or Second Agree, Unlawful Sexual Penetration in the First or Second Degree and Robbery in the First or Second Degree. When someone has been investigated for or accused of a Measure 11 crime, they are likely to face a serious prosecution and the possibility of years spent in prison with no good time or programs.
The difference between outcomes for those with a great attorney and those without are huge. I have achieved dismissals, acquittals and suppression at the Measure 11 level. I believe deeply that the tougher the road, the harder you have to work to get down it. Measure 11 is codified into law by ORS 137.700 and proscribes sentences in range from 70-300 months. It has a mandatory minimum bail of 50,000 which requires a defendant to post 5,000 to be released pending trial.
What is Jessica's Law?
Jessica's Law is another mandatory minimum sentencing law that was passed by the legislature in 2006. It is codified in ORS 737.700 and requires a mandatory minimum 25 year sentence for certain sex felony convictions in the state of Oregon. The law actually began in Florida where it was named for a victim of sexual abuse. Jessica's Law carries the highest mandatory sentence of any law in Oregon, the same as that for premeditated murder.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
Not in Oregon. It is okay for an officer who witnesses a traffic violation that is otherwise minor to use that as a pretextual reason for a stop on a vehicle where they are going to look for signs of intoxication while they investigate the violation. We do not, in Oregon, allow police to simply pull over every car moving through a particular area unless there is an emergency or security issue.
Do I have to submit to Field Sobriety Tests?
No, you do not have to submit to any field sobriety tests under Oregon law. There is a case called Rohrs that allows the State to use the fact that you refused to do field sobriety tests against you but most skilled defense attorneys can shoot holes in that evidence by pointing out that the tests are difficult to pass, subjective and are not required by law. If you have been drinking and are driving a car, you probably should refuse to do field sobriety tests.
Do I have to let an officer search my car?
No, you do not. There are certain exceptions to the warrant requirement that allow officers to search vehicles in certain instances; however, you should never give consent to have your vehicle searched or sign a consent form even if told the officer will otherwise get a warrant. Not giving consent to a search allows you greater defenses in the future in asking the court to suppress or exclude any recovered evidence. Officers are not just allowed to search any car they would like. You will not be punished extra later in court for refusing consent. Instead, you are likely to get a reduced resolution or dismissal if your refusal creates illegal search and seizure issues for the state.
What is the license suspension for DUII in Oregon?
In Oregon, there are a number of possible license suspensions for DUII. The most applicable are a 1 year license suspension for a first-time conviction of DUII, a 3-year suspension for a second-time conviction and a lifetime revocation with the right to reapply for a license after 10 years with a third or subsequent conviction. There are also administrative suspensions for failing or refusing a breath test in many circumstances.
Can I get a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor?
Yes, for Class C Felonies and some drug-related B Felonies, you can. You would need to have an attorney file a motion to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor at any time after your probation was successfully completed. The State has the option to object to the felony being treated as a misdemeanor, so you may need an attorney for a contested hearing to call your probation officer, have them attest that you did well, to make your case and make sure that the judge understands your progress. Be wary, though, as you will want to see if you can get that treatment "nunc pro tunc" so that it relates back to the time of conviction. Otherwise, you will still have a lot of the collateral consequences of a felony conviction even if it has been reduced to a misdemeanor. If it were me, I would consult with an attorney a few months before your probation is over in order to get this ball rolling while your P.O. is still invested in your file.
What about having my conviction or arrest expunged?
Oregon law provides for the deletion of arrests or convictions under certain circumstances in ORS 137.225. If you were arrested and more than one year has passed without you being charged or your case was charged and then dismissed (unless it was a DUII that was dismissed pursuant to a diversion agreement), you are eligible to have the arrest expunged and deleted. If you were convicted of most class C Felonies or misdemeanors, with the notable exceptions of sex crimes or traffic offenses, you are eligible to have that conviction expunged or deleted three years after the date of conviction if you only have one total offense on your record in the last ten years or ten years from the date of the last conviction if you have more than one. Our office does expunctions for a small fee.
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