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Can Negligent Homicide be Expunged in Oregon?

Vehicle Chalk Markings on Road

Can Negligent Homicide be Expunged in Oregon?

Short answer: No. Not unless the Legislature or the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission changes the law.

Sidewalk Chalk Markings of Vehicular Homicide

Criminally Negligent Homicide (CNHomicide) is a fairly common charge for drunk-driving convictions. In addition, a person say texting while driving or racing when a death occurs is often charged with this crime.

Events like this don’t get much more tragic, for the victim, the victim’s family and friends, and also the driver-defendant, who often, made a supremely stupid mistake that had grave, mortal consequences for another person. It’s an emotionally fraught situation: witness a Marion County sentencing for a young Oregon man who killed a young woman while driving drunk. Oregon lawmakers have disagreed, over the years, on the best policy. Do people who have CNHomicides in their past and have turned things around over a long period of time deserve to have that conviction (eventually) expunged?

Reasonable minds disagree. I’ve worked with clients who made horrendous mistakes when 18 or 19 years-old, and this proved to be the catalyst for them straightening out their lives. And they did. Some are living 30 years later with families of their own, are assets to their employers (or employees), churches, and communities. In short, they are completely reformed and all-around decent people. Yet, it is a homicide, albeit an unintentional one, and someone died. Expungement for this type of crime? It’s a tough call.

So no wonder, at one point, the Oregon Legislature actually incentivized judges to grant criminally negligent homicide expungments through ORS 137.225‘s “clear and convincing evidence” mechanism at the very end of the statute. Then, in 2003 the Oregon Legislature made CNHomicide ineligible as a class-B felony. It went a step further in 2009, stating, in effect, that even CNHomicide convictions before 2003 were ineligible. But the Legislature worded the language open-endedly, for whatever reason, which gave rise to this appeal.

At any rate, the Oregon Legislature has apparently concluded, “No”. Thus ruled the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2013 in State v. Beck, 254 Or. App. 609, 295 P. 3d 169 (1-16-2013). This is an important case in Oregon expungement law because it settled this very question. Defendants with Criminally Negligent Homicide cannot expunge a pre-2003 conviction, no matter how far back the conviction occurred.

A Caveat – Don’t misunderstand. Even if the crime you were convicted of “increased”, “upped”, or was reclassified to a more serious level since you were convicted, you probably can still expunge your record. So for instance, if you were originally convicted of a Class-C felony, that later was “upped” to a Class-B felony, you probably can expunge that conviction. See our article explaining that very issue and why most such crimes are expungible,  Oregon Expungement Attorney – Types of Crimes – Crime Change or Reclassification. Further, types of crimes do not matter when it comes to eligibility for expunging arrests–only convictions.

One of this firm’s passions is assisting persons recover from past mistakes and reclaiming their good standing, including expungement, juvenile expungement, restoration of firearm rights, employment and career issues and other adverse affects of a criminal record. Call or write us today regarding your or a loved one’s expungement and for information, assistance, or counsel.

Essent Law llc offers offers Oregon expungement lawyer and legal services in Marion, Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Lane, and other counties, including the cities of Portland, Salem, and Eugene and surrounding areas.

Defendants with Criminally Negligent Homicide cannot expunge a pre-2003 conviction, no matter how far back the conviction occurred.

More Detailed Discussion for Oregon Expungement Lawyers and Practitioners

The Beck decision suggests a closely related question: “Okay, criminally negligent homicides when classified as a class-c felony (pre-2003) are not eligible, but might a post-2004 CNHomicide conviction–a class-b conviction–be eligible after 20 years of “good behavior” for some class-b felony convictions under ORS 137.225(8)(a)?

It seems not. As of the date of this post (6-27-2014), CNHomicide is (unsurprisingly) considered a person felony and ineligible. See OAR 213-003-0001(14). If the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission were to change that classification, then a post-2004 CNHomicide conviction could apparently be eligible for expungement. Such a designation change seems quite out of the question, though, especially in light of the the Oregon Legislature’s clear antipathy to CNHomicide expungements by its changes to ORS 137.225 both in 2003 and 2009. At any rate, we’d have to wait till 2004 + 20 years to find out definitively.

The photograph, “Point of Impact” by Sir Mildred Pierce, is licensed under CC BY 2.0. No changes were made to the visual content of the photograph.



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