Law Office of
John E. Gutbezahl, LLC
5 Centerpointe Drive Suite 400
Lake Oswego, Oregon 97035
Still the subject of considerable controversy, Oregon's Measure 11 Bill, passed in 1994, continues to be the law of the land. This piece of legislation was introduced as a ballot initiative by a "tough-on-crime" citizens group who collectively felt that sentencing guidelines for serious crimes of a violent nature were too loose-ended and offered judges entirely too much latitude in dispensing punishment for such crimes. The guiding philosophy behind the initiative was the notion that violent criminals cannot be reformed through probation or short prison sentences, and that lower crime rates could be achieve through longer incarceration periods.
Measure 11 guidelines apply to only the most serious category of criminal offenses that involve a component of physical violence. These crimes include murder, manslaughter, assault, kidnapping, robbery, rape and other types of forced sexual offenses. Prior to the enactment of Measure 11, an Oregon judge could decide at his own discretion whether a convicted felon should be put on probation or sent to prison. For those who were incarcerated the judge would set a maximum "indeterminate" term of confinement. A parole board would then supervise the prisoner's progress and could exercise the discretion to mitigate the term of imprisonment and place the prisoner on parole.
Measure 11 stripped judges and parole boards of their ability to exercise such discretion in favor of fixed, mandatory sentencing guidelines. In addition to that, the new law extended its jurisdiction to include crimes committed by juveniles as young as fifteen years of age who would then be tried as adults for Measure 11 crimes. Measure 11 did enjoy the advantage that it created a much more level playing field for criminal justice in that it proportioned punishment by targeting the most serious crimes with the longest of sentences, promoted "truth in sentencing" so that a convict would serve the actual time he was sentenced to, and created a total uniformity that eliminated the gross disparity in prison sentences meted out by various judges across the State.
While Measure 11 may have streamlined many of the functions of the Oregon Criminal Justice System it also came with a down side. The inclusion of fifteen year old offenders as within the bounds of its purview has continued to be the object of controversy. The Oregon prison population has swelled as a consequence of these longer, mandatory sentencing guidelines creating an increased burden on the taxpayers. And, while Oregon crime rates have indeed been lowered since its enactment, critics of Measure 11 claim that this phenomenon merely reflects the larger, national trend in decreased crime rates as a more plausible explanation.
Regardless of how you feel about the advisability of Measure 11 it is the current law in Oregon and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The administration of justice will always be much more an art than it will ever be a science and true justice will forever remain an elusive, exacting ideal to be striven for rather than a commodity that can be conveniently legislated into play.
At the Law Office of John E. Gutbezahl, LLC we have had a long history of defending those charged with Measure 11 crimes. They are the most serious category of crime and receive our utmost, combined attention. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of facing such charges, remain silent and call us immediately. Our combined experience as both criminal defense attorneys and as former prosecutors will be put in your service to ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Don't hesitate to call us now at 503-594-1919 for your free initial consultation.