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State v. Cespedes-Rodriquez

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 12-05-2012
Case #: A144008
Sercombe, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; and Brewer, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A144008.pdf

Criminal Law: Under ORS 161.200, after a defendant raises a 'choice of evils' defense, the state must disprove that defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense can be disproved if the defendant had the intent to act illegally before the imminent threat of safety existed.

Defendant appealed the trial court’s conviction of failure to perform duties of a driver under ORS 811.700. The Defendant rear-ended a pedicab, smelled of alcohol, and offered the victim $100 if he could leave. The Defendant put his car in reverse and tried to drive off. The victim’s friend tried to stop him and hit the hood of his car multiple times with a metal object. The Defendant then left the scene of the accident and failed to contact police. Defendant argued the trial court erred in finding the State disproved his ‘choice of evils’ defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Under ORS 161.200, a choice of evils defense would justify criminal conduct if it was: 1) necessary to avoid a threatened injury; 2) the threat was imminent; and 3) it was reasonable to believe the threatened injury was greater than the injury caused by the illegal actions. Once raised, the state has the burden to disprove this defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeals found that the State presented sufficient evidence to disprove the choice of evils defense. The Defendant had the intent to leave the scene before the threat of injury occurred. He offered the victim $100 to just leave and reversed his car in an attempt to drive off before any threat arose and failed to contact or respond to police. A rational trier of fact could find the Defendant had the intent to avoid responsibility. Affirmed.