State v. Justice

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 09-02-2015
  • Case #: A154685
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Tookey, J. for the Court; Sercombe, P.J.; & Hadlock, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 135.432(4), a trial court abuses its discretion by denying a guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement which lessens the defendant's charge from a misdemeanor to a violation, when that trial court's decision is based solely on policies prohibiting such practices, and the decision is not granted individualized "due consideration."

Defendant was convicted of third-degree theft, a misdemeanor, after the trial court refused to accept Defendant's guilty plea pursuant to a plea bargain negotiated with the State, which would have lowered Defendant's charge from a misdemeanor to a violation. Defendant was charged with third-degree theft after she was caught stealing $26.51 worth of merchandise from a Wal-Mart. Defendant admitted to her theft, and, in plea negotiations with the District Attorney, pled guilty to a lesser-included violation. The trial court exercised its discretion to deny this guilty plea, based solely on the court-wide policy of denying pleas lowering misdemeanor charges to violations. Defendant and the State both objected, but the trial court sentenced Defendant with third-degree theft. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court abused the discretion conferred by ORS 135.432(4) to deny negotiated plea bargaining. The Court reviewed the language and legislative history of ORS 135.432(4) in determining that, if a trial court exerts its discretion to deny a plea bargain, it must provide "due consideration" to the particular defendant, and to the particular plea agreement prior to the denial. The Court found that here, the trial court failed to give due consideration to Defendant's case in particular, and instead relied solely on prior practices by the court in not reducing misdemeanor charges to violations. Accordingly, the Court held that the trial court had abused its discretion in denying Defendant's plea agreement. Reversed and remanded.

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