Section 42 of Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Oregon Constitution establishes rights of crime victims in adult criminal and juvenile delinquency cases. Those rights include, among others, the right to be present and to be heard at critical stages in the case, to obtain information about the defendant or alleged juvenile offender, to refuse to be interviewed by the defendant or alleged juvenile offender, to obtain a transcript of certain court cases and, upon request, to be consulted about plea negotiations in certain cases.
Currently, victims cannot enforce effectively any of the rights established in section 42 because section 42 provides that assertion of a victim's rights cannot invalidate a court ruling or suspend a case. Thus, victims cannot appeal from or otherwise challenge a ruling of a court denying any of their section 42 rights, and the constitution prevents the legislature from providing victims effective procedural rights by statute.
HJR 49 amends section 42 of Oregon's Bill of Rights. Under the measure, victims could individually seek remedies for violations of section 42 "by due course of law." Victims of crime could challenge a ruling of a court denying the victim a right secured for the victim by section 42. To effectuate their rights under section 42, the measure allows victims to seek a delay in an adult criminal or juvenile delinquency case. Victims could pursue remedies in the criminal or juvenile delinquency case if one is pending or, if no such case is pending, could initiate a case of their own. If the victim and the district attorney agreed, the district attorney could enforce the victim's section 42 rights. The measure authorizes the legislature to enact statutes providing the details of victims' remedial processes, including reasonable limitations on the time allowed for filing claims and the circumstances in which appeals are allowed.
In prosecutions involving organized crime, some victims may also be coconspirators. In other cases, children who are victims of crime may be subject to manipulation by the accused. The measure provides that in either type of case prosecutors may seek a court order suspending the rights secured by section 42.
The measure continues the current provision of section 42 that prevents a recovery of money damages for violation of a victim's rights, and the current provision that prevents an assertion of a victim's rights from invalidating an accusatory instrument, conviction or adjudication, or from terminating any criminal or juvenile delinquency case at any point after the case begins. The measure also provides that no claim for a right established in section 42 shall suspend a criminal or juvenile delinquency case if suspension would violate a right of a defendant or alleged youth offender guaranteed by the Oregon Constitution or United States Constitution.
(This impartial statement explaining the measure was provided by the 2007 Legislature.)