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Why Victim Notification Matters in Oregon Expungement Cases

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Why Victim Notification Matters in Oregon Expungement Cases

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Victim notification can be a gift or a curse in Oregon expungement cases. Victim notification can be critical in close ones. Victims are often enemies, but they can also be strong allies in moving on from past mistakes. 

In both adult and juvenile expungement (or expunction) proceedings, Oregon victims have two main rights: 

1. The Right to Notice That Expungement Proceedings Are About to Happen – Victims have the right to be given the heads up (notice) of your intent to Expunge Your Record (along with a copy of your motion so they know all the relevant details and can respond meaningfully to the possibility of you getting your record expunged).

2. The Right to be Heard; The Right to Help or Hurt Your Case – They have the right to speak at the hearing–if that hearing ensues (See Oregon Expungement – Can I Get My Record Expunged? | Pt. 4  – Outcome). They get to tell the judge whether they think you deserve an expungement, and tell the judge and prosecutor there a little–or a lot–about you.

The Oregon rules of evidence are the only check on what can be discussed at the hearing. Because what’s at issue is your general character, the victim has a great deal of latitude and the evidentiary scope doesn’t get much wider than this. This can be a blessing or curse for the expungement applicant.

Take into account and plan accordingly with respect to what the victim is likely to do and how the victim can impact your case.

Here’s three things to keep in mind in order of importance about victims and Oregon expungement strategy:

1. Victims Play a Minor Role At Best If No Hearing Takes Place

Note: Sometimes the D.A. cannot track down the victim. Either the D.A. can’t find a last-known address or the last-known address is obsolete. Further, if the victim does receive notice, for the great majority of adult expungement cases, the victim will never have the opportunity to show up, speak, and be heard because no hearing is ever held.

2. But If You Have A Hearing or Yours is A Close Case, The Victim is A Strong Enemy or Ally 

Note: Because, if a hearing ensues, the court must allow the victim to speak, the victim can be an asset or liability to you or a loved one. Even before a hearing, if you have buried the hatchet with the victim (to right any wrongs), they can be an asset by writing to the D.A. saying either: (1) they support the expungement or (2) they’re neutral and do not oppose it. The reverse is also true, of course: the victim can still hurt your case by communicating an adverse position to the D.A. by phone or letter, thus making it more likely that the D.A. will oppose your motion and force a hearing.

3. The Rare Case and Obstacle of When the Victim Does Not Know They Were Harmed

Note: In some cases, victim notification can be a great obstacle indeed. Even though rare, there are cases where, for whatever reason, notifying the victim is unacceptable. That can stop an expungement in its tracks. How might this happen? Sometimes the victim was very young, or incapacitated by sickness and does not really remember the harm the defendant caused him or her. Thus, the expungement can only proceed by causing further pain to the victim.

In that scenario, what you have is a prospect of having the D.A. sends a “Hey, guess about this really bad thing that happened to you that you don’t know about…” letter. That often is enough to jettison the expungement, depending on the case and the client.

4. Bottom line –  Take into account and plan accordingly with respect to what the victim is likely to do and how the victim can impact your case, especially  with a case that may go to a hearing. The victim could be the tipping point for a hearing. And at the hearing, the victim could make or break your case.

Commonsense Advise: If there is still bad blood between you and the victim, this may be a good opportunity to bury the hatchet. But sincerity is the key. Tread lightly. If you go to a former victim essentially expecting to get something from them (positive testimony or at least maybe they will be neutral and won’t tell the judge what an S.O.B. they think you are), you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Don’t manipulate. If you’re really making reparations, they’ll know it; and if you’re full of shit, they’ll know it.

One of our passions is assisting persons recover from past mistakes and reclaiming their good standing. Contact Essent Law today regarding your or a loved one’s expungement, information, assistance, or counsel.

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


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