Berg v. Nooth

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 08-19-2015
  • Case #: A147322
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Hadlock, J. for the Court; Sercombe; & Tookey
  • Full Text Opinion

A prosecutor’s “extrinsic” promises not to prosecute third parties in order to induce a guilty plea was not unconstitutional as a matter of law.

Petitioner appealed his unsuccessful challenge to his guilty plea in a post-conviction hearing, based on the argument that the plea was impermissibly coerced, and was therefore an involuntary waiver of his rights as a criminal defendant. At trial, Petitioner pled guilty and waived his right to appeal. In exchange, the State dropped all other pending charges against Petitioner and his relatives and agreed not to pursue the full bail amount of $150,000 owed by Petitioner’s daughter. At the post-conviction hearing, Petitioner challenged this bargain, claiming he pled guilty in order to get charges against his family dropped, which was impermissible coercion under the Federal and Oregon Constitutions. The Court found that, consistent with case law, there is no Federal constitutional bar to a prosecutor promising leniency for a third party in exchange for a guilty plea, so long as the prosecutor engaged in good faith negotiations and any threatened action against third parties had a proper basis. Furthermore, the Court held that Oregon’s constitution, which requires that guilty pleas be free from coercion, does not contain a blanket prohibition against all “extrinsic” threats as inherently coercive. Affirmed.

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