Ballot measures 51, 52, 53: yes

Oregon voters will see three proposed constitutional amendments on their May 20 primary ballot, referred to the electorate by the 2007 Legislature. Because they are reasonable and necessary, we recommend yes votes on all three.

The first two, measures 51 and 52, address one issue, but are presented as separate measures because they amend separate sections of the state Constitution.

Sections 42 and 43 of Article I — Oregon's Bill of Rights — says crime victims have the right to be present in court and to address the court during the criminal trial, to refuse to be interviewed by the defendant and in some cases to be consulted about plea negotiations. Victims also have the right to protection from the person accused of the crime and to have the court take that protection into account when deciding whether to release the defendant before trial.

These are all rights most Oregonians would consider reasonable. But the Constitution provides no mechanism to enforce these rights, so victims cannot appear in court to defend them and cannot appeal or challenge any judicial rulings that deny these rights. And the Constitution currently bars the Legislature from fixing this problem through statute.

Ballot Measures 50 and 51 would amend the Constitution to give crime victims standing to protect their rights, and would allow the Legislature to enact laws spelling out the details, such as setting time limits for making claims.

These changes are reasonable and necessary to make protection of crime victims' rights a reality. There is no organized opposition to the changes; we recommend yes votes on Ballot Measures 51 and 52.

The third amendment on the ballot, Measure 53, is the Legislature's response to a voter-approved amendment in 2000 that limited the state's ability to seize property from individuals unless they were convicted of a crime related to the property. The 2000 measure also barred law enforcement from receiving any proceeds from property forfeitures, designating all the money for drug treatment programs instead.

The result was a drop in forfeitures and a corresponding reduction in funding for drug treatment. The 2000 measure also left key parts of the law unclear.

The 2007 Legislature, in conjunction with county prosecutors, defense attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union, drafted a compromise designed to allow more forfeitures while continuing to protect the rights of people accused of crimes.

Measure 53 would allow property to be forfeited if it was gained through or used in a crime similar to the one that yielded a conviction. It also eases the standard of proof in forfeiture cases, requiring a preponderance of the evidence for personal property forfeiture rather than clear and convincing evidence. Real property forfeitures would have to meet the higher "clear and convincing" standard.

The measure also exempts animals from the protections of the 2000 amendment, allowing animals to be put up for adoption quickly in cases of animal abuse rather than waiting for a conviction. And it removes the ban on using forfeited property for law enforcement.

We recommend a yes vote on Ballot Measure 43.

Share This Story