State v. Savastano

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 09-12-2013
  • Case #: S059973
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Balmer, C.J. for the Court; En Banc.
  • Full Text Opinion

A prosecutor’s decision will comply with Article 1, section 20 of the Oregon Constitution as long as there is a rational explanation for the differential treatment that is reasonably related to his or her official task or to the person’s individual situation.

The State challenged the decision of the Court of Appeals, which dismissed Defendant’s conviction based on the State’s violation of Article 1, section 20 of the Oregon Constitution. Defendant embezzled money over a period of 16 months. The prosecutor, for the purpose of creating an organizational outline for the jury, aggregated the transactions to indict Defendant on 16 counts of theft, one count for each month. Defendant argued that the aggregation violated Article 1, section 20 because the prosecutor did not apply a coherent, systematic policy when aggregating the theft transactions, the standard set forth in State v. Freeland. The Court reviewed the text and the history of Article 1, section 20 and did not find any support of a requirement that the government’s decisions must conform to a systematic policy. The Court then looked at cases decided both before and after Freeland and found that Freeland stood alone. The cases decided prior did not mention a requirement of a systematic policy and the cases decided after, despite citing Freeland, applied less stringent standards. The Court overruled Freeland and reaffirmed the decision in State v. Clark; a prosecutor’s decision will comply with Article 1, section 20 as long as there is a rational explanation for the differential treatment that is reasonably related to his or her official task or to the person’s individual situation. Here, the Court held that there was a rational basis for the prosecutor’s decision to aggregate the theft transactions by month, which was for purposes of helping the jury understand the case. Reversed.

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