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State v. Rainoldi

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 12-30-2011
Case #: S058846
Landau, J. for the Court; En Banc.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/S058846.pdf

Criminal Law: The crime "felon in possession of a firearm" does not require a culpable mental state; if it did, it would encourage ignorance of whether a person is a felon or not, and frustrate the purpose of the statute, which is to keep firearms away from criminals.

Defendant appealed his conviction under ORS 166.270(1) for the crime of felon in possession of a firearm. In 2004, defendant was convicted of forgery in the first degree and identity theft, both Class C felonies, and was sentenced to probation. On the judgment, he wrote "misd. treat. on completion of probation" and defendant understood from the trial judge that his convictions would be reduced to misdemeanors. Defendant attempted to purchase firearms after completing his probation, but a background check showed his prior convictions and he was arrested, charged, and convicted. The Court of Appeals reversed. Defendant argued that because the statute is outside the Oregon Criminal Code, it requires clear legislative intent to dispense with a culpable mental state, and the legislature's silence on the issue does not constitute clear intent. The Supreme Court reasoned that legislative silence is a factor, but because similar laws have a mental state, the lack of a listed mental state may be evidence that the legislature intended to dispense with it. After carefully considering the history and purpose behind the statute, including whether finding a mental state requirement would frustrate the purpose of the statute, the Court concluded that the circumstances showed the legislature clearly intended to dispense with the culpable mental state. Reversed.