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Portland Criminal Law Blog

Can I appeal my conviction if I accepted a plea bargain?

Facing criminal charges in Oregon can disrupt your life. Perhaps you chose to accept a plea deal, but now you want to appeal your conviction. Do you still have that option if you pleaded guilty?

According to FindLaw, it is possible, but you must have a good reason to withdraw your plea.

  • Some appeals are successful when defendants argue that no one explained their Constitutional rights to them. If you decided to enter a guilty plea without understanding that you had the right to a trial, or you did not understand that you had the right to speak to an attorney, you may have a valid reason to withdraw your plea.
  • The judge in your case should have evaluated its underlying facts when deciding whether or not to accept your plea agreement. You may want to argue that there was no factual basis for your plea, after all.
  • If you did not understand what you were being charged with, the confusion could have made the plea deal seem like your best option. 

Differences between post-conviction relief and an appeal

At the law firm of David J. Celuch, we often advise clients who have been through the criminal justice system and did not receive fair treatment. You may be able to file a petition for post-conviction relief even if you have already gone through the appellate court and lost your appeal.

According to the Oregon Department of Justice, rather than the appellate brief you filed when you appealed the judgment from your original trial, you will file a PCR petition. This document explains what relief you are seeking, and the claims you are making regarding the errors that occurred. The most common reason people file PCR petitions is a failure of their defense attorney to adequately represent them, whether during the original trial or the appeals process.

Some Oregon inmates face long stretches of solitary confinement

Oregon inmates may face long bouts of solitary confinement. Several state prison inmates with severe mental illness are held in solitary confinement every day. A recent lawsuit naming corrections officers at the Oregon State Penitentiary also claims that solitary confinement is being used as punishment unlawfully.

What are the effects of solitary confinement?

Enhanced patrols watching for impaired Oregon drivers in August

Because alcohol metabolizes in the body at different rates, a person who feels fine may get behind the wheel only to become increasingly impaired. Law enforcement in Oregon watches for weaving, inconsistent speeds and other signs that a driver is not in full control of the vehicle. How well the authorities are able to enforce DUII laws often depends on issues such as traffic, budgets and how many officers are available.

Patch.com reports that the sheriff's department in Washington County has stepped up efforts to arrest drivers who are impaired. A spokesman for the county points to the high number of alcohol-related traffic deaths as the reason for the increase in the number of patrols. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gathers this data each year. Oregon State Sheriff's Association, the state's Department of Transportation and the NHTSA have helped to make the extra patrols possible.

Why is attention to detail so important when filing an appeal?

Going through a criminal trial in Oregon has been emotionally and mentally challenging. If an issue arose with the presentation of evidence, you may have felt devastated as you watched your case fall apart. In this case, you may naturally believe that if your trial had been fair, you would have prevailed, and so you prepare to file an appeal with the Oregon Court of Appeals.

While you do have the right to appeal your criminal conviction, the Oregon Rules of Appellate Procedure note that there is no guarantee that the panel of appellate judges will agree that the mistake made resulted in an unfair outcome. In your appellate brief, you must present your argument in clear, concise language, along with the trial records that support your claim. Your brief will be countered by the prosecutor's answering brief, so your argument must be well-prepared. 

What to do after an unfavorable appeal outcome

If your loved one has been convicted of a crime they did not commit, then you will do whatever it takes to help them get out of prison. It can be devastating after two to four years of waiting through the direct appeal process to find out you were turned down. Fortunately, if the Oregon Court of Appeals did not agree with your loved one’s appeal, then there are other options for relief.

Your loved one can ask for a petition for reconsideration or file for a “Petition for Review” if they are unhappy with the court’s decision. This is a formal way of asking the Oregon Supreme Court to hear your case. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is selective in the cases it hears and there is a good chance you may be denied.

Clearing your criminal record through expungement

If you are worried about how your criminal record will affect your life in Oregon, you may have done some research on expungements in hopes of reducing some of the long-term consequences. At the law firm of David J. Celuch, we understand that although applying for an expungement can be complex, for many people it is a life-changer.

The Oregon State Bar explains that there is generally a waiting period between the time that the arrest, charges or conviction appeared on your record and the time that you can have this mark erased. This ranges from one year to 10 years, except in the case of dismissed charges or an acquittal. In either of these situations, you can have your record expunged immediately, as long as the following is true:

  • Law enforcement has not arrested you for an offense other than a traffic violation in the last 10 years
  • You have not received a nontraffic conviction in the last 10 years
  • No other conviction on your record has been expunged in the last 10 years
  • You are not currently under prosecution for an offense

The link between race and wrongful convictions

A mistake in the crime investigation process can lead to serious consequences for a defendant, especially in Oregon where capital punishment is legal. An error can result in a conviction that steals decades away from an innocent person, if not worse. Not all wrongful convictions are due to errors. Some result from racial bias and discrimination.

Proof is in the numbers

Alleged DUI crash kills 5-year old

Few (if any) people in Portland go out thinking that they will end up attempting to drive drunk. Yet oftentimes, they may place themselves in situations where they feel as though they have no choice. There may be no malice intended in their actions; rather, they may simply be looking to return home safely. Unfortunately, whatever level of impairment they may be experiencing may not make that possible. The hope, then, is that if they are involved in an accident, no one else suffers due their decisions. 

Sadly, that was the case when a Philomath mother allegedly made that very choice. In the car with her were her eight-year old and five-year old daughters. While investigators have yet to reveal the circumstances of her accident, it is known that she was involved in a horrific crash in which both she and her older daughter were seriously injured. The youngest girl was not so lucky; she was killed in the accident. Authorities are continuing to investigate the accident; they have also arrested the mother and charged her with both manslaughter and driving under the influence. 

A fatal mistake: Wrongful death penalty convictions

A wrongful death penalty conviction is a tragic, yet very real possibility for people living in Oregon. Capital punishment is legal in Oregon and often a contentious subject. It can only be applied to cases involving aggravated murder charges. Wrongful convictions are estimated to make up six percent of the prison population, and are certainly no exception for capital cases.

Why do wrongful capital punishment convictions happen?

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