State v. Gonzalez-Valenzuela

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 12-24-2015
  • Case #: S061751
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Linder, J. for the Court; En Banc.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 163.575(1)(b), a criminal defendant may be charged with child endangerment if that defendant knowingly puts a minor in a place where the principal and substantial use of that place is to facilitate unlawful drug activity, including possession of drugs.

The Court certified Defendant’s question as to the proper statutory meaning and application of ORS 163.575(1)(b), the statute defining the criminal act of child endangerment. Police officers pulled over a vehicle driven by Defendant’s 17-year old daughter, in which Defendant and her 5-year old child were passengers. After receiving consent to search the vehicle, an officer found methamphetamine and heroin in plain view in Defendant's purse. Defendant was charged with drug possession and two counts of child endangerment under ORS 163.575(1)(b). Defendant unsuccessfully argued at trial and before the Court of Appeals that ORS 163.575(1)(b) should not apply. Defendant argued that possession of drugs was not an “unlawful activity involving controlled substances” and that the vehicle was not a “place where unlawful activity involving controlled substances is maintained or conducted”. The Court looked to the plain meaning and the legislative intent of “unlawful activity” and held that possession of a controlled substance is included within ORS 163.575(1)(b), thereby dismissing Defendant’s first argument. The Court addressed Defendant’s second argument, that the vehicle should not be considered a “place” where unlawful activity involving controlled substances is “maintained or conducted,” and held that the child endangerment statute refers to those places where a “principal or substantial use of the place is to facilitate unlawful drug activity." Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings.

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