Measure 11 and Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Oregon's Measure 11, which created ORS 137.700, is a ballot measure that requires mandatory minimum prison sentences for some violent and sex crimes. Measure 11, absent very few exceptions, takes all sentencing authority away from the judge. Measure 11 crimes include, but are not limited to, murder, attempted murder, rape, sex abuse, assault 1 and assault 2.

When a prosecutor decides to charge a person with a Measure 11 crime, that prosecutor immediately has put the person in a position of knowing that, if convicted, he or she is definitely facing a lengthy prison sentence. For example, if a person is convicted of Assault 1, he or she will serve a minimum of 90 months in prison. There is no possibility of early release or any reductions, whatsoever, in the amount of prison that must be served.

There are some limited exceptions to mandatory minimum sentences for a few select crimes. ORS 137.712 allows a judge, if all conditions are met, to sentence a convicted defendant to the “guidelines” sentence rather than the Measure 11 minimum sentence. Obviously, hoping for a judge to give a sentence rather than the required one is a very risky proposition for any person facing very serious criminal charges.

Sadly, as a result of this non-discriminate sentencing law, many defendants are forced to consider admitting to a crime they may not have committed or agreeing to allow a judge to find them guilty even though they have not admitted guilt or exercised their right to a trial. I have represented numerous clients with whom I have had to have a discussion that goes much like, “look, we have a shot at winning and obviously if we win you go home. Unfortunately, there also is a decent chance we lose and if we do lose you spend at least ‘x’ number of months in prison. If you agree to the prosecutor’s plea offer, then you will only have to do ‘y’ number of months prison.” This hardly feels like a fair statement for someone to have to hear when he or she is faced with life-changing decisions and dealing with allegations of very serious criminal conduct with very little bargaining power. But, sadly, it is the truth.

Because the risks and consequences associated with Measure 11 charges are so great, it is incredibly important to engage legal advice from an attorney who has a thorough and intricate understanding of the law and how it applies to your case.


From the Author: Measure 11