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New sentencing guidelines for felonies to take effect in Oregon

Being charged with a felony can put an Oregon resident in a very difficult situation. Besides the serious penalties, such as expensive fines and a lengthy prison sentence, residents of Multnomah County, just east of Portland, who are accused of felonies will also have to deal with new risk evaluation guidelines.

The program is set to start on July 1. It is said to be the county's response to House Bill 3194, a measure that seeks to release funds by keeping people out or letting them spend less time in prison. The savings can then be used for community services and treatment. The county is expected to save up to $12 million if the program is successful.

The program would carefully scrutinize a suspect's education, employment history, criminal records, family and other factors like mental health needs and history of alcohol and drug dependence. The evaluation is meant to help prosecutors, a judge and even a defense lawyer determine if an accused person is more suited for prison or high-level supervision.

People who are eligible for the risk evaluation program include people accused of kidnapping, assault, robbery and repeated drug-related offenses. Such offenses must be second-degree charges to qualify. Minors, who are facing particular Measure 11 charges and will be tried as adults, are eligible as well. Residents accused of second-degree sex crimes, domestic violence, homicide and other cases that involve victims younger than 14-years-old are excluded from the evaluation.

The Citizen Crime Commission' Executive Director stated that the program is aimed at effectively sorting suspects by their treatment needs and their criminal risks.

Source: The Oregonian, "Accused felons in Multnomah County to face new risk evaluations before sentencing," Maxine Bernstein, May 6, 2014

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