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Defense of DUII and Criminal Cases in Gresham Oregon

As a Gresham Criminal Defense Lawyer, it is important to understand the structure of the court system in Multnomah County.   The Multnomah County Circuit Court has two courthouses dedicated to handling adult criminal cases.  The primary courthouse is in Downtown Portland on Fourth Avenue.  This building was completed in 1914 and renovated many times over the years.  Most of the criminal and DUII cases are resolved in the main courthouse.  There are also four courtrooms in the Multnomah County Detention Center that handle arraignments and DUII Diversion matters.

For many years, certain criminal cases have been resolved in a satellite Circuit Court located in Gresham.  Last year, the old Gresham courthouse facility was replaced with a new courthouse located on 184th and Stark in Gresham.  The East County Circuit Court handles misdemeanor criminal matters that occur east of 122nd Avenue.  This Court resolves DUII cases, Diversions, Reckless Driving cases and Domestic Violence cases that happen in the eastern part of Multnomah County.  These cases can include prosecutions for misdemeanor violations of the Portland and Gresham City Codes.

The East County Circuit Court has special rules that govern how cases are managed in that system.  These differences can influence whether or not a person might want to move their case to the main courthouse and follow the rules for downtown cases.  It important to consult with an attorney prior to your first court appearance in order to determine whether the case should be moved.  Cases can be moved at the first appearance only.  After that, the case remains in the East County Circuit Court.

If you are cited for a DUII or other misdemeanor crime in Gresham, you will likely be ordered to appear in Court about 30 days after your arrest.  During this time the police reports will be prepared and reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office.  The District Attorney will decide what charges should be filed and will normally file those charges a few days before your arraignment.  People should remember that the charges on the citation they received from the arresting officer are just suggestions to the District Attorney as to what the officer thinks should be charged.  The District Attorney may bring fewer or different charges.  The DA may chose to add charges.  For instance, in a DUII case with an accident, a police officer may only cite a person for DUII and Reckless Driving.  However, after review the District Attorney could choose to add charges of Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree (for the property damage) and/or an Assault charge if another person was injured.

As a Gresham DUII lawyer with over 35 years of experience, I know the intricacies of the Multnomah County and Gresham court systems.   This experience pays off for my clients and I always try to get the best possible disposition that satisfies my client.


New Rules For Oregon’s DUII Diversion Program

The 2013 legislature made two changes to Oregon’s Diversion Program. The changes were sponsored by the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association and the Oregon District Attorney’s Association. As a Portland DUII Attorney I support these changes.

Diversion is a deferred sentencing program in which a person enters a plea of guilty or no contest to DUII, but the sentencing is deferred for one year. A program participant is required to complete certain requirements, the main one being treatment, with the promise that the case will be dismissed at the end of the one year period if the person complies. The period can be extended once for 180 days.

A diversion participant must pay many expenses. There are court fees for entering the program, fees for a drug and alcohol evaluation and the cost of treatment itself. Many people struggle to pay these costs and end up needing more time to pay off their obligations.

More Time To Pay Costs

House Bill 2627 allows the Court to give a person a little more time to pay the court costs, if the balance is under $500.00. The maximum length of a Diversion agreement is one and a half years. This bill allows the Court, at the end of a year and a half, to set a court hearing outside of the year and a half period to allow a person to pay the remaining court costs. HB 2627 does not specify how long a period of time the Court can allow, but it will likely be one or two months. In the past, the Court had no authority to go beyond the one and a half year limit. I have seen many people terminated from the Diversion Program simply because they could not afford to pay court casts. This is a sensible change that shows consideration for people who are struggling to pay Diversion costs.

Defendants Now Pay Restitution

HB 2627 also allows the Court to impose a restitution obligation if a person caused an economic loss to another person during the course of their DUII. This was not possible in the past because Diversion eligible DUIIs never had a formal sentencing in which the Court could make a determination that restitution was appropriate. Now, the Court can hold a restitution hearing as a part of a Diversion agreement and enter a Judgment against the Diversion participant for any economic loss they have caused to another person.

The best part of this change is that a diversion participant cannot be terminated from the program just because they still owe restitution monies at the end of their Diversion. If a person does owe restitution money at the end of their case, the Court will enter a money judgment against the participant for the unpaid balance. This can then be paid in installments or sent out to a collection agency.

As an Gresham DUII Lawyer I am always pleased to see defense lawyers and prosecutors work together on matters of mutual interest. These changes provide assistance to people with financial hardships and restitution to persons who suffered an economic loss as a result of a DUII driver.

Oxycontin: The Gateway To Heroin And Measure 11 Crime

In my last blog I discussed the hypothetical client named “John.”  John was prescribed Oxycontin after an on the job injury.  Like many clients, he became addicted to this dangerous drug.  Here is the story of how that happened.

John’s Portland, Oregon doctor handed out Oxycontin like candy, raising his dosage over time to the maximum of 80 milligrams per dose.  John’s doctor eventually realized he was over prescribing and got worried about getting in trouble with the medical board.  He prescribed John a month worth of Percocet, a lower dose opiate, and terminated john as a patient.  His doctor did not follow the protocol for titration (a gradual reduction in dosage) or refer him to other doctors who could replace the opiate medicines with another, less harmful, drug.  John began using heroin and sold heroin to pay for his own habit.  He was caught dealing heroin after six months.  He had a number of criminal charges and the district attorney is asking for prison.  This is a common Oxycontin scenario.

Oxycontin came onto the market in 1995.  At that time, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the drug, claimed that this new formulation of oxycodone, was less prone to abuse and that it could be discontinued without withdrawal symptoms. They trained their sales people to make these representations to physicians as they marketed the drug.  Because it is a long acting pain reliever, it became a favorite of physicians for the treatment of long term pain caused by cancer and back injuries.

These representations turned out to be false.  Oxycontin has an extremely high addiction potential.  Withdrawal from long term use of this drug is particularly miserable.  Although Purdue Pharma stopped making these representations in 2001, thousands of lives had been affected.  Also in 2001, the FDA required a “black box warning” that specifically warned of the drug’s high abuse potential.  In 2007, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to making these misrepresentation and paid a fine of 634 million dollars.  Three high ranking executive at Purdue Pharma also pleaded guilty and paid millions in fines.

Purdue Pharma has made improvements to this drug.  They have developed a new formulation that can’t be crushed and injected.  It is being phased into the market.  Tie will tell if this safety feature can be defeated.

I have seen the effects of this drug first hand.  Oxycontin leads to a powerful addiction to opiates.  These addicts will do almost anything to acquire opiate drugs.  The craving to acquire and use opiates can become more powerful than the drive to eat or sleep.

As a result, I have seen people who commit crimes by forging prescriptions, stealing from their employers, using and selling heroin and even committing robberies to get opiate drugs.  The end up being charged with forgery, theft, identity theft and even Measure 11 robbery.

Like John in my hypothetical, as a Portland Measure 11 Defense Attorney, I have seen many people with no prior criminal record or addiction history become addicted to opiates and commit crimes as a result of taking legally prescribed pain medications.  Some persons forge or alter prescriptions and get charged with forgery or identity theft.  Others turn to heroin and get charged with delivery or possession of a controlled substance.  Too many resort to robbery, like John, and get charged with Measure 11 robbery.

Of course, these people are devastated and feel like their lives are over.  Fortunately, that is not true.  As a Portland Drug Crimes Lawyer, I have helped many persons through the criminal case process and they have been able to keep their positions in society.  Almost none of my clients are convicted of Measure 11 crimes.


Dealing with Measure 11 Cases of Honest Addiction

As a Portland Criminal Defense Lawyer, I see many people who come by their legal problems as a result of the drug addiction driven criminal behavior.  I see many cases where a client has become addicted to opiates as a result of taking prescribed medication in the course of legitimate medical treatment.

Many criminal cases unfold like this.  A person suffers an injury and is prescribed opiate based medications.  The person uses these medications as prescribed and becomes addicted.  They begin to use the medications to avoid withdrawal and use them to cope with life stress.  Often their doctors cut people off suddenly or do not follow the proper medical protocols to titrate (gradually reduce dosage) a person off of the medications.  Often people will try to get the drugs on their own.  Prescription drugs are very expensive on the street and most people run out of money quickly.  Some people acquire the money by theft, forging prescriptions, identity theft and even robbery.  Some turn to heroin as a substitute.

Heroin is cheap and easy to obtain in Portland.  We see people using this drug who one would never expect to see using heroin.  We see people with no criminal history at all engaging in the purchase and sale of heroin in order to support their habit.

Many of our clients have no criminal history and are unaware of the serious punishments and consequences involved in criminal conduct.  Forging prescriptions necessarily involves identity theft.  Repeated acts of identity theft can be added together in a single charge (Aggravated Identity Theft) and lead to a prison sentence.  A Robbery conviction can bring Measure 11 sentences of 70 to 90 months, with no time reduction.

We know how to help our clients access appropriate resources and get into treatment.  We understand how to build a strong mitigation plan and explain exactly how Finally, we present our client’s cases to the district attorney and to the Court and almost none are convicted of Measure 11 crimes.

Consider the story of a hypothetical client named “John.”  John became addicted to heroin and committed a robbery with a firearm to get money to support his heroin habit.  He was facing a 90 month Measure 11 sentence that required that he serve every day, hour and minute of the sentence.  We put together a sentencing mitigation plan.  John’s plan involved treatment of the addiction and a psychological evaluation to show that John was not dangerous.  We use these tools to persuade a district attorney that the focus of the sentence should be rehabilitation, rather than a strictly punitive Measure 11 sentence.  The goal of John’s plan was to structure a sentence that had a short prison term and access to programs that would help him reduce his sentence even further by actively engaging in rehabilitation.

As a Portland Measure 11 Lawyer, I know how to develop mitigation plans based on honest addiction and present these facts to the district attorney.  Just because you are charged with a Measure 11 offense does not mean that you will serve the mandatory minimum Measure 11 prison term.  Strong advocacy in mitigation can sway a district attorney from a Measure 11 sentence.

In most cases, the district attorney decides if the case is subject to a Measure 11 sentence.  My staff and I have worked very hard to develop respectful relationships with prosecutors who work on Measure 11 cases.  Our decades of experience and hard work pay off for our clients.  Almost none of our clients end up with Measure 11 sentences.

Clarification of The Rules for Expungement – Contempt is Not an “Offense”

In Oregon, certain criminal convictions can be expunged (set aside and sealed) after a period of time.  The rule is that a person must be free from criminal convictions for ten years preceding the filing of the motion, not counting the offense one is trying to remove from a criminal record.  This is an important process.  Felony and misdemeanor convictions can have a devastating impact on finding employment and housing.  Being able to clear one’s record after a period of law abiding behavior is important.

As a Portland expungement lawyer, I have encountered problems for clients that have been found in contempt of court.  Some counties treat a contempt conviction as a disqualifying crime for expungement purposes and some do not.  The mixed results between counties has been frustrating for my clients and everyone else trying to navigate the expungement process.  This process is expensive and the costs (for filing fees and a background check fee) amount to $320.00.  This is not an amount of money most people want to spend on an uncertain result.

For many years, I have argued that contempt itself is not an “offense” because it is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor.  The results have been mixed.  Recently, I had a client who wanted to appeal an adverse decision on this “contempt as an offense” issue.

On October 9, 2013, the Court of Appeals issued its decision in State v. Coughlin.  In that case, a client had been found in contempt for violation of a restraining order within the ten years of applying for an expungement.  The Trial Court determined that contempt was a disqualifying offense under the expungement statute.  We appealed.  The Court of Appeals agreed that contempt is not an “offense” or a “crime.”  The Court noted that in virtually all of its previous decisions characterizing the nature of a contempt conviction it had found that contempt was not a crime.  The Court of Appeals held that a contempt conviction does not, by itself, bar a person from an expungement.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case to the Trial Court for reconsideration.

After 35 years of being an Oregon expungement lawyer, it is good to see that the issue has been settled.  Now people can file for expungement with a degree of certainty that they will not be denied on the basis of a contempt conviction.  The patchwork of counties with different views of the issue are now settled.

“Bath Salts” May Be Sold in Stores, But They Are Illegal Drugs

In my experience as a Portland Criminal Defense Lawyer, I see people selling supposedly legal substitutes for illegal drugs.  Today, many “head shops” and internet companies market items marked as “bath salts” or “plant fertilizer” or “stain remover” as legal substitutes for cocaine and MDMA.  These crystalline powders have nothing to do with bathing, plants or removing stains and are actually illegal synthetic designer drugs with dangerous properties and side effects.

The drugs are based on a substance found in a natural plant called “Khat” (Catha Edulis) called cathinone.  Khat is native to the Middle East and Africa and has been used for its stimulant effects for thousands of years.  Khat is illegal in most countries except certain places in Africa and the Middle East.  The synthetic cathinone based drugs you see in stores are solely the product of modern chemistry.

These drugs are sold under the names “Vanilla Sky” and “White Knight” and are marked “not for human consumption.”  The chemists who create these substances make minor changes to the chemical structure of the drug and purport to avoid state and federal laws banning cathinone based substances.  By marking the item “not for human consumption” these merchants hope that they are avoiding federal laws which broadly ban not only cathinone, but cathinone analogues.

Most people assume that if an item is marketed for sale in the United States it must be legal.  This is a dangerous assumption.  Cathinone itself is a Schedule I drug, meaning it is a substance that has no legitimate medical use.  Possession or delivery of a cathinone based substance carries penalties on par with the possession or delivery of heroin.

Here is an example.  John buys “Vanilla Sky” over the internet based on the representation that he is purchasing a legal substitute for cocaine.  John decides to snort the drug in a parking lot, where he is observed by the police and arrested.  The police field test the powder, and it field tests positive for cocaine.  He is arrested for possession of cocaine.  However, when he appears in Court the crime lab has done a more sophisticated drug test and discovered that the substance is really synthetic cathinone.  John is indicted for possession of cathinone, a crime that is the is equal to possession of heroin and that can never be removed from his record.

Aside from the legal consequences, the use of these drugs is highly dangerous.  While these drugs may have physical effects like amphetamine, they also can cause hallucinations, seizures and delusions.  Poison control centers throughout the country continue to report high numbers of overdoses from synthetic cathinone.  The long term physical effects of synthetic cathinones are unknown.  These drugs are often sold by dealers who pass the drug off as MDMA (Ecstacy).

We have had many clients who naively think that they are purchasing and using a legal substance.  What they discover is that cathinone is a highly addictive substance and that, even though they purchased a powder that purports to be legal they are actually in possession of an illegal substance with legal consequences equal to the possession of heroin.

As a Portland drug crimes lawyer I have one practical piece of advice: if someone is selling you something that will get you “high” you should assume it is illegal.  Also, if you don’t know exactly what the drug is, you should assume that it is dangerous.