State v. Austin

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 09-30-2015
  • Case #: A154061
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Devore, J., for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; & Garrett, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision in Harrell/Wilson, a judge’s discretion to consent to a defendant’s Article I, section 11 right to request to waive a jury trial exits primarily to ensure that a defendant’s rights at trial are protected by ensuring the defendant is adequately represented and not improperly influenced. A judge may also consider judicial economy and speed.

Defendant appealed a judgment of conviction for reckless driving and driving under the influence, assigning error to the trial court’s refusal to grant Defendant’s request to selectively waive a jury trial on the reckless driving charge. On appeal, defendant sought a reversal of conviction on both charges, arguing that (1) the trial court’s refusal violates his Article I, section 11 right under the Oregon Constitution to waive a jury trial, and (2) because of the denial the jury heard evidence regarding the DUI charge that unfairly prejudicial as to the reckless driving charge. The Oregon Supreme Court held in Harrell/Wilson that judicial consent of a defendant’s Art. I, section 11 right to waive a jury trial exists to protect the rights of the defendant by ensuring he is adequately and competently represented. Secondary, albeit important, considerations for a judge are principles of efficiency and judicial economy. The Court found that as the trial court did not give any reason for denying Defendant’s request, the trial court could have denied Defendant’s request for impermissible reasons. Therefore the judgment regarding the reckless driving charge should be vacated and remanded for reconsideration under Harrell/Wilson principles. However, the Court found no error in allowing the jury to hear evidence regarding the DUI charge, as the trial court avoided potential error by giving the jury a limiting instruction regarding evidence. Conviction for reckless driving. Vacated and remanded; otherwise Affirmed.

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