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.


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. 


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.



Thinking Outside the Box

Past criminal history shouldn’t limit job opportunitiesEmployment app

We strongly support the "Ban the Box" bill - HB 3025 , which helps to remove roadblocks to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. This bill would prevent employers from asking prospective employees about past criminal histories on job applications until after a conditional offer of employment is made.

After serving their debt to society, many ex-offenders are denied the opportunity to work based solely on their conviction. This makes it difficult if not impossible for individuals with a criminal record to re-enter society successfully and be able to earn a living. With a criminal justice system that is dominated by racial disparities, people of color are disproportionately harmed by employers’ criminal background check procedures.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), more than 650,000 individuals are released from prison every year. One of the key elements they identified for successful re-entry into our communities is helping these individuals find and keep a job. If ex-offenders are to succeed as law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, they must have a chance at finding employment – particularly in this tough economic climate.


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.



ACLU Releases Online Guide for Reporting Police Misconduct

“How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon” compiles statewide information

August 7, 2015 - Just ahead of the anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, the ACLU of Oregon announced the publication of “How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon,"  an online resource for reporting police misconduct. The guide includes information on how to file a complaint with law enforcement agencies across the state.

“Reporting police misconduct is an important step for increased police accountability,” said Legislative Director Kimberly McCullough. “People may worry that filing a report will not make a difference, but complaints of police misconduct can reveal patterns of problematic behaviors and practices, making them harder to ignore.”

McCullough added that, while it is not required, people may want to consult with an attorney before submitting a complaint as it could affect future legal proceedings.

Most of Oregon’s law enforcement agencies have complaint procedures in place; however, there is no standardized way in which that information is made available to the public. While compiling the information for the guide, we found it often required multiple phone calls to law enforcement agencies in order to find out their procedures. The lack of a straightforward complaint process can be discouraging to complainants.


How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon

Reporting police misconduct is an important step that can lead to better police accountability. However, some people who feel they were mistreated or had their rights violated do not file complaints. Often it is because they don’t know how to do it, they think it won’t make a difference, or they are afraid of retaliation.

Even though an individual complaint may not result in any changes, over time, complaints can add up and show patterns of problematic behaviors and practices.

While most law enforcement agencies in Oregon have a complaint procedure, it is not always easy to figure out how to file a complaint or where to file it. To help make the complaint process clearer, we have created the “How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon” resource.