Criminal Justice

“[L]awyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries. The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours.”
-- Justice Hugo Black,
Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963

The rights guaranteed to individuals under suspicion, criminal defendants, and prisoners are fundamental rights that protect all Americans from governmental abuse of power. These rights include the guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure, the right to reasonable bail, the right against self incrimination, the right to counsel, the right to be acquitted unless the government can prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to a jury of one’s peers and the right to be free from cruel and unusual treatment.

These protections were included in our federal and state constitutions in order to protect innocent persons who may be wrongfully suspected or accused of a crime. The framers understood that it is more important for the government to follow the rule of law than it is to obtain a guilty verdict in every case.

Litigation

State v. Marquez-Marquez

ACLU Challenges Unfair Bail Forfeiture

July 13, 2009 - The ACLU is directly representing Maria Araujo as she seeks remission of a court order demanding that she pay her brother-in-law’s security deposit of $20,000. 

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Washburn v. Columbia Forest Products, Inc.

Oregon Supreme Court Narrows Definition of Disabled Worker

October 2006 - In Washburn v. Columbia Forest Products, Inc., 340 Or 469, 134 P.3d 161 (2006), the Oregon Supreme Court was faced with the question under the Oregonians with Disability Act of whether a person’s disability should be assessed with or without regard to measures which mitigate the disability.

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Legislation

Open Letter to Oregon District Attorneys

Criminal justice advocates and leaders call upon you to start now on implementing important drug policy reforms.

November 20, 2014 – Although Oregon voters passed Measure 91 with a 12-point margin, implementation of this better, smarter approach to marijuana policy will not be complete until the first half of 2016. We don't have to wait until then to start to mitigate the damage done by decades of criminalization, wasted law enforcement time and squandered taxpayer money.

Prosecutors in Oregon's largest county have already decided to dismiss, and stop prosecuting, marijuana-related offenses that would no longer exist under Measure 91. Other county prosecutors should follow Multnomah County's lead. 

A strong majority of Oregon voters have directed the state to stop treating marijuana as a crime and to better prioritize our limited law enforcement resources. With so many lives and so much money at stake, waiting would be unreasonable and clearly damaging to Oregon's communities. We should work quickly to limit the damage already caused by a feckless war against marijuana.

We urge you to cease enforcement of marijuana laws that will no longer exist when provisions of Measure 91 take effect in July.

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Drug Reform: YES on Measure 91 - Marijuana (2014)

Law enforcement’s war on marijuana is a failure and has needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at a tremendous human and fiscal cost. Shifting Oregon away from the unsuccessful prohibition model towards a more effective harm reduction model long has been a high priority for the ACLU and our staff helped draft Ballot Measure 91.

Legalizing, regulating and taxing the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older will bring a new approach to our drug laws, making them more fair, more compassionate, and smarter at reducing drug dependency and improving public health and safety. We urge a YES vote.

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Other

Rick Steves: Travel as a Political Act - Ending Marijuana Prohibition in Oregon

Travel guru Rick Steves launches Oregon Tour, October 7 - 12

Rick StevesRick Steves is touring Oregon in support of Vote Yes on 91, the ballot measure to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults over 21. You probably know him best from his radio and television shows on OPB. He also produces a syndicated column and revises more than 50 guidebooks a year from his hometown of Edmonds, WA.

In “Travel as a Political Act: Ending marijuana prohibition in Oregon,” Steves will share how travel has shown him how different societies tackle the same problems. Steves and the ACLU of Washington co-sponsored Washington’s successful 2012 ballot measure to regulate, legalize and tax marijuana. “One thing I’ve learned in 30 years of travel is that treating marijuana as a crime does not work,” he said. “A better approach is to regulate it, legalize it and tax it. I’m an advocate for better policy, and that’s what Oregon will get once Measure 91 passes.”

The ACLU of Oregon is an endorser of YES on 91 and is cohosting the Rick Steves tour. As a part of the tour, Steves will be the special guest at our annual membership meeting in Eugene on October 9.

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Marijuana Arrests and Citations on the Rise in Oregon

June 5, 2013 - A report issued this week by the National ACLU, based on state crime reports provided to the FBI, shows that Oregon law enforcement agencies increased the rate of citations and arrests for possession of marijuana by 45% between 2001 and 2010. Oregon’s increase was the fifth highest in the country during that period. Nationwide, African-Americans were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than Whites despite comparable usage rates.

Analysis by the ACLU of Oregon of data made available by the Oregon State Police, shows that 90% of the marijuana possession incidents in 2010 involved less than 1 ounce of marijuana, which is punishable as a violation under state law and does not lead to arrest or jail time. That same data shows that Lane County reported the highest number of marijuana enforcement actions in 2010 with 16.7% of all marijuana possession citations and arrests statewide. Jackson County was second with 13.2%, Multnomah County was third with 8.32%, and Marion County was fourth with 7.0% of the statewide total for marijuana possession citations and arrests.

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