State v. Whitten

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 06-08-2016
  • Case #: A153369
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Sercombe, P.J. for the Court; Hadlock, C.J.; & Tookey, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

There are five factors for determining whether a traffic violation should be treated as a criminal prosecution for constitutional purposes: “(1) the type of offense; (2) the potential penalties arising from a conviction; (3) the collateral consequences arising from a conviction; (4) the ‘punitive significance’ of a conviction; and (5) whether the pretrial procedures associated with a criminal proceeding are allowed.”

Defendant appealed a judgment of conviction for failing to obey a police officer. Defendant assigned error to the trial court’s decision that Defendant was not entitled to constitutional protections provided to defendants in “criminal prosecutions” during his traffic violation proceeding. Defendant was arrested for interfering with a police officer, but the prosecutor dismissed that charge for the traffic violation instead. Unlike criminal proceedings, defendants charged with traffic violations are not entitled to a jury trial and the State must only prove the violation by a preponderance of the evidence. The Court held that the “trial court properly concluded that Defendant’s traffic violation proceeding was not a ‘criminal prosecution’” for purposes of constitutional protection. There are five factors for determining whether a traffic violation should be treated as a criminal prosecution for constitutional purposes: “(1) the type of offense; (2) the potential penalties arising from a conviction; (3) the collateral consequences arising from a conviction; (4) the ‘punitive significance’ of a conviction; and (5) whether the pretrial procedures associated with a criminal proceeding are allowed.” Applying the five factors, the Court concluded that failure to obey a police officer did not warrant constitutional protections because: (1) the offense was not traditionally a crime; (2) the penalties did not have “punitive significance;” (3) there were no identified collateral consequences to a conviction; (4) there was no “stigmatizing or condemnatory significance” to the conviction; and (5) Defendant was not subject to criminal pretrial procedures for the violation he was charged with. Affirmed.

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