THIS POST HAS BEEN AMENDED. In my opinion, one thing that sets a great defense lawyer apart from a good defense lawyer is the quality of their special jury instructions.
Special jury instructions have a number of advantages. If given, they can put the weight of judicial authority behind your argument. It's not just you saying what the state needs to prove, for example. It's what the judge is saying. If the instruction is not given, the standard of review on appeal is very defense-friendly. To obtain a reversal on an ungiven special jury instruction, you need the instruction to be a correct statement of the law and any evidence in the record that would justify it. This is the reverse of the standard of review for MJOA, where the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the state. (To be precise, it's also important that the instruction is not only a correct statement of the law but also is not unduly slanted toward the defendant.)
When are jury instructions most valuable? Usually when the statute is broadly written, but either the legislature or the case law has narrowed the scope of the statute. That happened with the crime of kidnapping, for example. Back in 2017, I spoke at a conference in Portland and recommended -- among many other things -- the following special jury instructions:
One longstanding argument is that the way the laws are written, a person's ODL should not be suspended because of a conviction for either unlawful use of a vehicle or possession of a stolen vehicle. The reasoning is simple. The law allows a suspension if an element of the crime includes a "motor vehicle." Neither UUV or PSV have an element that specifies "motor" vehilce, and the fact that the crime may have involved a motor vehicle doesn't make "motor vehicle" an element of the crime.
As far as I know, this issue hasn't made it to the Court of Appeals. Part of the reason for that is that certain prosecutors have conceded the issue. Part is that some defense attorneys aren't aware of the issue. Another reason, I suspect, is that even defense attorneys who are aware of the issue decide it's not worth fighting over when the defendant is going to get a two or three-year prison sentence and the license suspension is only for a year. No driving in prison, anyway.
Except that if the trial judge does impose a license suspension of one year, even if the suspension order indicates that the suspension will begin at the time of sentencing, DMV won't actually suspend the license until the defendant is freed from prison, adding to the hardship that comes with leaving prison. The more hardship, the increasing likelihood the defendant will recidivate.
If you want to help your clients stay crime-free when they get out of prison, argue against the license suspension and if you lose, send the issue up to appeal. It won't just be your client who benefits.
If a defendant properly raises a claim of self-defense, the state must disprove that defense. The jury will be instructed as follows:
- A person is justified in using physical force on another person to defend herself from what she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force. In defending, a person may only use that degree of force which she reasonably believes to be necessary. The burden of proof is on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense does not apply.
But what if a person believes they are acting in self-defense but their belief is unreasonable? The state will argue the defense does not apply. But is someone who intentionally kills someone no more morally culpable than someone who kills out of an unreasonable misapprehension of the need to defend themselves? Should the law recognize a difference between the two?
Arguably, the law already does so, albeit indirectly. You might be able to get there by applying a mental state to the element of self-defense. All material elements for crimes in the criminal code have mental states barring express language from the legislature. "Not acting in self-defense" is an element (i.e., something the state must prove in order to obtain a conviction.)
For more on this argument, please e-mail me directly.
If I point a gun at you in a menacing way, that will likely constitute the crime of Unlawful Use of a Weapon, barring any defenses. But what if I tell you that if you don't leave my neighborhood, I'm going to go inside, get a gun, and then come back out and shoot you? Is that UUW?
Here's what the Oregon Supreme Said about the subject, when tasked with deciding whether the "use" in UUW encompassed threatening someone with a firearm.
- The problem with both arguments is that they neglect to distinguish between threatening to use a weapon and using a weapon as a threat. The two are not—or at least, not necessarily—the same. One may threaten to use a weapon without ever touching it, as when, for example, a person says to another, "If you do not give me your money, I will get my gun and shoot you." That does not constitute a current "use" of a weapon, as it is a threat to use it sometime in the future. In contrast, one also may use a weapon as a threat, as when one person points a gun at another and says, "Give me your money." In a sense, that is a threat to use the weapon in the future; there is an implicit warning that, if the money is not forthcoming, the gun will be fired. But—and this is key—it is also a current use of the weapon as a threat.
State v. Ziska, 355 Or 799, 808, 334 P3d 964 (2014)
More than once, I've had cases where the defendant was charged with unlawful use of a weapon for pointing a firearm at a trespasser. The prosecutor initially believed that even if the defendant reasonably believed he was acting in defense of his property, his actions were unlawful because you cannot use deadly force to protect property.
You may already see the problem. Threatening the use of deadly force is not the actual use of deadly force. Consequently, the limitation on defense of property -- you can't use deadly force -- does not apply when the deadly force is merely threatened.
Don't take my word for it.
Pointing a firearm at someone does not constitute the use of deadly force. State v. Burns, 15 Or App 552, 562, 516 P2d 748 (1973)(With respect to self defense, and limitations on the use of self defense, "the threat of deadly force does not constitute the use of deadly physical force."); State v. Taylor, 182 Or App. 243, 48 P3d 182 (2002)
Consequently, when a defendant has merely pointed a firearm, and is claiming self-defense, it is error to instruct the jury on the “limitations of use of deadly force.” Taylor, 182 Or App at 248 (“We further conclude, under Burns, that the trial court erred in giving the instruction because there was no evidence that defendant actually used deadly physical force.”
In Taylor, a firearm was pointed but not discharged. The defendant claimed self-defense. The jury was instructed on the limitations of deadly force. As in Taylor, giving the instruction was error.
The Taylor court also found the error was not harmless. It agreed with defendant’s argument, which it quoted as follows:
- "By giving an instruction about the use of deadly physical force, the trial court suggested to the jury that it could find defendant had used such force, when, legally, it could not. This could have confused the jury and prejudiced defendant. If the jury improperly found that defendant had used deadly physical force, it would have assessed the legality of his actions in light of the limitations on the use of such force. It would have subjected defendant's actions to a more stringent test to determine whether they were legally justified."
Taylor, 182 Or App At 248.
Anyway, I mention this, because this particular error may not be common, but they do happen, and I'm guessing I'm not the only defense attorney who's had a client in that situation.
Everyone knows my favorite legal issues involve arguments that aren't the law . . . yet. I have a personal list of arguments that I promoted that initially met with great resistance from the courts, prosecutors and other defense lawyers. Not all defense lawyers, but a lot. The most common argument I hear is that a number of defense lawyers are concerned that if they argue an issue that isn't firmly rooted in case law, they lose credibility with the judge. I disagree, for any number of reasons, but I've heard the argument enough that I know it's a real thing.
But one issue I came up with last year won the first time it was argued and it hasn't stopped. Unfortunately, it's something that -- in many cases -- the state can fix, and they've started doing so. But there are exceptions and often those exceptions arise in cases back from the appeal or PCR, and if properly raised, the issue can substantially undermine the state's case.
Assume your client is arrested and his firearm is seized. There wasn't a warrant, just PC to seize the firearm. The police subsequently perform a ballistics test on the firearm and connect the firearm to earlier shootings. In that situation, you absolutely should move to suppress the ballistics test and all evidence that flowed from it. The reasons are as follows:
Since the Bruen opinion from the United States Supreme Court, there have been 2nd Amendment challenges to felon in possession of a firearm (both facial and as-applied), felon in possession of body armor, unlawful possession of a concealed weapon and many more. Each of these has a chance of being successful and some in fact have been successful in certain federal courts. Nothing of course is guaranteed. However, there is one argument where I believe the odds are overwhelmingly in our favor. And that's a challenge to the Portland City Code's prohibition on carrying a loaded weapon.
The key thing to know about the Portland City Code is that it prohibits open carry, as well as concealed carry. Why does that matter? See this quote from Bruen.
- In the early to mid-19th century, some States began enacting laws that proscribed the concealed carry of pistols and other small weapons. As we recognized in Heller, “the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that [these] prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.” 554 U S, 30 at 626, 128 S Ct 2783, 171 L Ed. 2d 637. Respondents unsurprisingly cite these statutes—and decisions upholding them—as evidence that States were historically free to ban public carry.
- In fact, however, the history reveals a consensus that States could not ban public carry altogether. Respondents’ cited opinions agreed that concealed carry prohibitions were constitutional only if they did not similarly prohibit open carry. That was true in Alabama. See State v. Reid, 1 Ala. 612, 616, 619-621 (1840). It was also true in Louisiana. See State v. Chandler, 5 La. 489, 490 (1850). Kentucky, meanwhile, went one step further—the State Supreme Court invalidated a concealed-carry prohibition. See Bliss v. Commonwealth, 12 Ky. 9 (1822). The Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in Nunn v. State, 1 Ga. 243 (1846), is particularly instructive. Georgia’s 1837 statute broadly prohibited “wearing” or “carrying” pistols “as arms of offence or defence,” without distinguishing between concealed and open carry. 1837 Ga. Acts 90, §1. To the extent the 1837 Act prohibited “carrying certain weapons secretly,” the court explained, it was “valid.” Nunn, 1 Ga., at 251. But to the extent the Act also prohibited “bearing arms openly,” the court went on, it was “in conflict with the Constitutio[n] and void.” Ibid.; see also Heller, 554 U. S., at 612, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637. The Georgia Supreme Court’s treatment of the State’s general prohibition on the public carriage of handguns indicates that it was considered beyond the constitutional pale in antebellum America to altogether prohibit public carry.
- Finally, we agree that Tennessee’s prohibition on carrying “publicly or privately” any “belt or pocket pisto[l],” 1821 Tenn. Acts ch. 13, p. 15, was, on its face, uniquely severe, see Heller, 554 U. S., at 629, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637. That said, when the Tennessee Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of a substantively identical successor provision, see 1870 Tenn. Acts ch. 13, §1, p. 28, the court read this language to permit the public carry of larger, military-style pistols because any categorical prohibition on their carry would “violat[e] the constitutional right to keep arms.” Andrews v. State, 50 Tenn. 165, 187 (1871); see also Heller, 554 U. S., at 629, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (discussing Andrews). All told, these antebellum state-court decisions evince a consensus view that States could not altogether prohibit the public carry of “arms” protected by the Second Amendment or state analogues.
N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n v. Bruen, 142 S Ct 2111, 2146-2147, 213 L Ed 2d 387, 35 427-429 (2022) [Emphasis added.]
Bruen put the burden on the state to prove the existence of a historical analog to any modern-day firearm prohibition. The good news for the state is that there are plenty of examples of antebellum statutes regarding the open carry of firearms. The bad news for the state is that they were all found unconstitutional.
I highly encourage defense lawyers to raise this argument. More than any other firearm prohibition, this one is likely to be found unconstitutional.
This is going to be a very short post on a very complicated issue. Really more of an update.
Assume a horrible accusation. The defendant is accused of assaulting a child, and the child dies as a result. To be guilty of "felony murder" in this situation, as opposed to a straight murder, the defendant does not need to intend the death of the child. But does the defendant have to at least know they are causing serious physical injury? Or is negligence enough, i.e., they fail to be aware of a substantial risk of causing serious physical injury?
Post-Owen/Shiffer cases, the state will argue that the answer is "negligence." But Owen and Shiffer involved the Assault II and criminal mistreatment statutes where the legislative intent was unknown. Consequently, Owen and Shiffer are good cases for determining what attorneys and courts should do when the legislative intent is unknown -- at least in the context of assault -- but they tell us nothing about what to do when the legislative intent is clear.
And they don't need to. If the legislative intent is clear, then we go with what the legislature intended. Pretty fundamental principle.
In this case, the legislative intent is remarkably unambiguous. I have it if you need it. Prosecutor after prosecutor testified that for the crime of felony murder of a child resulting from assault, the defendant must know or intend to cause serious physical injury.
Last month in Multnomah County, a judge agreed with the defense that the defendant must know or intend serious physical injury in order to be guilty of felony murder under this particular theory. It came up in the context of a bail hearing. It appears the State of Oregon will be filing a petition for a writ of mandamus on this issue, which means it will go straight to the Oregon Supreme Court. Such writs go on a much faster timeline than direct appeals, so if the state does follow through, we should have an answer within months.
An increasingly common situation is arising in child sex cases that are reversed by the appellate or in PCR. The state seeks to offer the prior trial testimony of the complaining witness under a hearsay exception of OEC 803(18)(a)(b).
There are a couple of arguments worth making in response. The first is the purpose of OEC 803(a)(b) is so that the jury can evaluate the nature of the "disclosure." This is what State v. Hobbs, 218 Or App 298, 305, 179 P3d 682 (2008) stated. The statute is written quite broadly, but the scope of a statute can be narrowed by legislative intent. (State v. Gaines.) If legislative intent is simply to help the jury understand how and under what circumstances the disclosure was made, the next question becomes, "what is a disclosure?" Is it any discussion of the alleged crimes? Or is it when the child reveals something new and different? And is trial testimony -- at which point the child has told multiple people, from family, to CARES NW, to the police, to the DA, to the Grand Jury -- really a disclosure? If not, then the prior testimony shouldn't be admitted.
If the hearsay exception allows it, then there is a question whether it is admissible under OEC 403. The argument here is that the cumulative nature of the testimony is inherently prejudicial because people are more likely to believe false things when they are repeated.
The mechanism for how repetition impacts credibility was explained in How Liars Create the Illusion of Truth by Tom Stafford.
- “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. Among psychologists something like this known as the "illusion of truth" effect. Here's how a typical experiment on the effect works: participants rate how true trivia items are, things like "A prune is a dried plum". Sometimes these items are true (like that one), but sometimes participants see a parallel version which isn't true (something like "A date is a dried plum"). After a break – of minutes or even weeks – the participants do the procedure again, but this time some :of the items they rate are new, and some they saw before in the first phase. The key finding is that people tend to rate items they've seen before as more likely to be true, regardless of whether they are true or not, and seemingly for the sole reason that they are more familiar.
Id. [Bold added.]
If the judge overrules the objection to the admission of the trial testimony, how much of the prior testimony should come in? The state will usually argue it all is admissible, and it will cite Hobbs, 218 Or App 298, 305, 179 P3d 682 (2008) as authority. But Hobbs does not go nearly as far as the state will likely claim. At issue in Hobbs was the victim's diary. The Hobbs court described it as follows:
- [T]he entire document is about the events leading up to the abuse, the abuse itself, and the victim's feelings during and after that time. The journal paints the picture of a developing sexual relationship between defendant and the victim, beginning with his questions about kissing and culminating in the charged acts of abuse, and includes an account of the victim's emotional reaction to the changing relationship.
Hobbs, 218 Or at 307.
The appellate court noted that the type of disclosure at issue was within the scope of what the legislature intended. However, the Court also noted the full scope of the hearsay exception is unknown. The Court noted that "the outer limits of a statement 'concerning an act of abuse' may not be clear. . ." Id. at 305. The Court specifically said it did not need to decide those limits in that case. Id. It found the portions of the diary fell within the scope of the exception "regardless of any textual ambiguities regarding the scope of a statement 'concerning an act of abuse. . . .'" Id. at 306.
I suspect large portions of the original trial testimony will blow past the reasonable limits of the hearsay exception. I recommend making a specific objection to individual statements in the testimony (again, assuming it is not kept out as a whole.)
And you may want to apply those limits to the CARES NW, Liberty House or Children's Center interviews. As the COA state, we don't yet know the limits of OEC 803(18)(a)(b). Which means it's all the more likely a well-preserved objection will result in an appellate decision that will provide clarity (and maybe get the convictions overturned.)
This is from a Brown-Poston demurrer.
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT
- Under current case law, the state must allege the legal basis for joining counts in a mult-count indictment. If the basis for joinder is not properly alleged, the indictment is vulnerable to a demurrer.
- Under more recent case law, specifically State v. Brown, 326 Or App 46, 57 (2023), the Court of Appeals has held that, in order for joinder of multiple counts to be proper, each count must be properly joined with every other count. In other words, that A is properly joined with B and B is properly joined with C is not enough to allow joinder in one indictment unless A is also properly joined with C.
- In this case, the indictment expressly alleges why some of the counts are properly joined with some of the other counts. However, under Brown, that is not good enough. It is not sufficient to alleged, as here, that “Count 7 (Reckless Driving) was “of the same or similar character and a common scheme and plan as Count 5.” It must set forth in the indictment why count 7 is properly joined with all other counts in the indictment, not merely one other count.
Since my last blog post on the gun minimum in mid-August, I have significantly revised my memo that argues that the gun minimum must be imposed on the primary offense and cannot be deferred to a later (and non-M11) count.
I have also added a constitutional argument.
Be forewarned that cutting and pasting have made the formatting a bit wonky, but with that caveat, here is the substance of the argument:
Meg Huntington will be presenting on the law on upward departures this weekend at the OCDLA Conference in Newport. The materials for the conference have been made available to all attendees. I can tell you that her materials are very thorough, and there is no doubt that when I receive an upward departure notice in the future, I will be comparing the alleged factors to her materials. If you are unable to go to the conference, you should nevertheless order her materials. They are that useful.
A very common situation is this. The defendant is charge with a M11 offense, such as Robbery in the First Degree with a Firearm. They are also charged with Felon in Possession of a Firearm with a Firearm. The language in each count "with a firearm" refers to the gun minimum sentence enhancement that is codified at ORS 161.610.
The "gun minimum" carries a minimum of 60 months (5 years) in prison, which makes it less than the mandatory minimum sentence for any M11 offense. However, the minimum can be suspended for the first gun minimum conviction, although whether it is suspended or not, a second gun minimum conviction carries a mandatory 10 years in prison. The first gun minimum can also only be imposed once.
Assume the defendant is convicted of the charges above. Can the trial judge not impose the gun minimum on the robbery count and instead impose it on the felon in possession count? The advantage of doing so is that the felon in possession count -- because it has a separate "victim" than the robbery count -- can be run consecutively. In other words, imposing the gun minimum on the second count would permit a sentence of 150 months (90 plus 60) whereas imposing it on the first count would only allow a much shorter sentence.
The argument is no, the judge cannot pick and choose which count to impose the gun minimum on. The reason why is as follows:
In September, I will be presenting at the OCDLA CLE in Newport. I will be speaking on severance, aka, having separate trials for different counts. You'll need to go to the conference for my full presentation, but I wanted to alert everyone to State v Brown, 326 Or App 46 (2023).
In Brown, the Court of Appeals held that all counts that are joined for trial must be properly joined with all other counts. They rejected the argument that "if A is properly joined with B and B is properly joined with C, then A, B and C, can all be joined in one trial, even if count A and count C are not properly joined."
Here's the most basic hypothetical I can think of. If the defendant -- a convicted felon -- is charged with murder in December by stabbing, and a second murder in January by shooting, he might fact the following charges:
Count 1: Murder
Count 2: Murder w/ a Firearm
Count 3: Felon in Possession of a Firearm w/ a Firearm.
Assume the murders are completely unrelated. Before Brown, the state would argue that count 1 is properly joined with count 2 because the counts are "same or similar." They would also argue that count 2 and count 3 are properly joined because they are from one criminal episode and part of a common scheme or plan.
Post-Brown, the defendant would counter that count 1 and count 3 are not properly joined. They are not "same or similar." They are not part of the same transaction or a common scheme or plan. There is no independent basis for joining counts 1 and 3. Therefore, each murder should have a separate trial. There is no obligation for the defendant to show "substantial prejudice," although obviously each trial will be more fair if tried separately.
There is another way I think we should be using the proportionality clause to attack sentences. It is when the exact same behavior can produce wildly different sentences depending on the charging creativity of the prosecutor.
Does it make sense to impose a sentence that the defendant only serves after he has been rehabilitated? The following is taken from a memorandum of law set to be heard at the end of August, 2023.
Cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted, but all penalties shall be proportioned to the offense.
Here's my question. The identical crime can be treated by statute as either a misdemeanor or a felony. There is no legal distinction whether it is one or the other. Can both misdemeanor and felony punishment be proportionate to the exact same behavior?
Every Attempted DCS felony has a crime seriousness level (CSL) 2. It does not matter if the defendant is charged with substantial quantities of commercial drug offense factors.
Yesterday, in a case called Timbs v. Indiana, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether the Excessive Fines Clause of the 8th Amendment applied to the states.
When the Bill of Rights -- the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution -- was first adopted, it did not apply to the states. However, the passage of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment -- which does apply in state court -- was widely interpreted as incorporating some of the first 10 amendments, that is, limiting state power in state criminal prosecutions, primarily. But which federal constitutional rights protect a defendant in state court and which do not? Early on, it was hit or miss, and in 1884, in a case called Hurtado v. California, the US Supreme Court appeared to hold that the indictment clause in the Fifth Amendment does not apply to state prosecutions. More on this later.
Over time, the Supreme Court increasingly held that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendmendment incorporated more and more of the Bill of Rights. And the trend has been to reverse earlier opinions that said otherwise. For example, it wasn't until 2010 that the US Supreme Court held that the 2nd Amendment (the right to bear arms) was incorporated by the Due Process Clause, reversing very old precedent. Thus, in state court, a defendant could cite the federal protections of the 2nd Amendment when challenging a state statute.
In the Timbs case, the question at issue was whether the Due Process Clause incorporated the provision in the 8th Amendment that prohibits "Excessive Fines." Here's what SCOTUSblog had to say about how the argument went:
- Although the only question before the justices in Timbs’ case was whether the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause applies to the states, the justices spent very little time on that question, because there appeared to be broad agreement on the court that it does. Justice Neil Gorsuch seemed to summarize the feeling on the bench in a question for Thomas Fisher, the Indiana solicitor general who argued on behalf of the state. Gorsuch asked, almost rhetorically: The excessive fines clause “applies to the states, right?” Gorsuch observed that most of the Supreme Court’s cases interpreting the Bill of Rights to apply to the states “took place in like the 1940s.” Somewhat incredulously, Gorsuch continued, “here we are in 2018 still litigating incorporation of the Bill of Rights. Really? Come on.”
Why does this matter in Oregon? It matters for two reasons. Two provisions from the Bill of Rights that have arguably not yet been incorporated are the right to a unanimous jury (which is not expressly found in the Bill of Rights) and, as mentioned above, the right to a Grand Jury indictment.
I'm not going to talk about the first. This post is about whether the Grand Jury Clause applies to Oregon. But before we get to that, your first question should be, "who cares?"
That should be your first question because Oregon's Constitution has its own Grand Jury clause, Article I, section V. It states that felony prosecutions require an indictment by Grand Jury, a waiver of indictment or a preliminary hearing. If the Oregon Constitution guarantees at least a preliminary hearing, why does it matter that the federal constitution does not?
But the reason it matters is this: the US Constitution recognizes as elements of crimes -- often referred to as Blakely elements -- that the state constitution does not. These elements enhance or aggravate a crime, and they can significantly lengthen the defendant's period of incarceration. Because they are not recognized as elements of a greater offense under the Oregon Constitution (with some exceptions), they do not need to be submitted to a Grand Jury under the Oregon Conbstitution. In other words, the prosecutor can threaten to double the defendant's potential sentence by dashing off -- without any oversight by a Grand Jury or a magistrate -- a number of often ill-thought-out enhancement factors up to 60 days obtaining the indictment.
But because these are elements of aggravated offenses under the US Constitution, if the Grand Jury clause was incorporated as part of the 14th Amendment, and therefore applicable to the state's, the current statutory notice scheme for enhancement factors would be unconstitutional. It would require some form of oversight, and as a result, we would see far fewer enhancements and thus shorter prison sentences.
Put another way, if Hurtado v. California were overturned, then a large number of defendants would benefit. For one, it would decrease the prosecutor's leverage pre-trial. More than anything else -- even more than unanimous juries -- it would have a significant impact on the number of people in prison by generally reducing the length of prison sentences.
(Yes, the prosecutor could still get upward departure factors past the GJ or past a magistrate, but as with anything else, the harder you make it for someone to get a widget, the fewer widgets they will get.)
Since Justice Gorsuch appears to believe that partial incorporation doesn't pass the laugh test, maybe we should be thinking about challenging the use of enhancement facts that haven't been submitted to the Grand Jury and give him the opportunity to apply the last part of the 5th Amendment to Oregon criminal prosecutions.
But I mentioned above that Hurtado "appeared" to hold that the GJ Clause doesn't apply to state prosecutions. Why the hedge?
While it's true that Hurtado found that it does not violate Due Process when the state doesn't submit a charge to the Grand Jury, it does appear to say that Due Process would still require a preliminary hearing. The Hurtado court wrote, after a discussion of the importance and history of Grand Jury indictments:
- Tried by these principles, we are unable to say that the substitution for a presentment or indictment by a grand jury of the proceeding by information, after examination and commitment by a magistrate, certifying to the probable guilt of the defendant, with the right on his part to the aid of counsel, and to the cross-examination of the witnesses produced for the prosecution, is not due process of law.
In other words, a preliminary hearing in state court prosecution satisfies Due Process. If this is correct, enhancement factors that aren't subject to preliminary hearings, even if Hurtado isn't overturned, violate the US Constitution.
This concept -- that maybe the right applies but not the full scope of that right -- was endorsed -- at least generally -- by Justice Kagan at the same oral argument mentioned above. Again, SCOTUSblog:
- At one point during Fisher’s time at the lectern, Kagan noted that, when the Supreme Court decides that a provision of the Bill of Rights applies to the states, “there are always going to be questions about the scope of the right” that applies. But when the justices “have decided whether to flip the switch” and decide whether a right applies, it hasn’t decided those questions, instead leaving them “for another day,” she explained.
That sounds like exactly what Hurtado did. Maybe you don't get an indictment in state court but the protection that an indictment is supposed to provide is satisfied by a preliminary hearing.