Measure 11 Past and Present

Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance,

This is the second letter in our series of letters providing you with information and analysis on important public safety topics that will undoubtedly be discussed during the next legislative session. The topic for this letter is Measure 11: mandatory minimum prison sentences for violent offenders.

Measure 11 History

The Oregon Legislature overhauled Oregon sentencing law in 1989 when it adopted Sentencing Guidelines. In the opinion of many law enforcement officials, crime victims, and members of the public, the guidelines had short sentences for violent criminals. For example, Rape in the First Degree, which is forcible rape of an adult or any rape of a child under 12 years of age, had a presumptive sentence of about 5 years for a criminal with no prior record. Under the guidelines, even this sentence could be reduced 20% for good behavior. This resulted in sentences of less than 4 years for Rape in the First Degree.

Before sentencing guidelines, Oregon law allowed a judge to give this rapist 20 years in prison, if the judge so decided. The judge had complete discretion to impose the 20 year maximum sentence or something less. This judicial discretion applied to all felonies. So called “A” felonies had 20-year maximum sentences; “B” felonies had 10-year maximum sentences; and “C” felonies had 5-year maximum sentences. When it came to sentencing, judges had significant discretion. Sentencing Guidelines significantly curtailed judges’ discretion and required particularly short penitentiary sentences for violent felons.

One of the authors of this letter, Kevin Mannix, was a legislator from 1989 onwards. Mannix tried unsuccessfully in 1991 and 1993 to get the Oregon legislature to increase sentences for violent felons. Mannix then authored what is now known as Measure 11. After the signature-gathering process, voters passed Measure 11 in November 1994 with 66% of the vote. Measure 11 was presented to voters again in November 2000, when Measure 94 proposed to repeal Measure 11. Measure 94 was defeated by nearly a 3-to-1 margin (74% no vote)!

Measure 11 Crimes

There are only 16 violent crimes covered in Measure 11. The Oregon legislature, in subsequent years, created many other mandatory minimum prison sentences, and people often and incorrectly call them Measure 11 crimes. For example, Using a Child in a Display of Sexually Explicit Conduct carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 70 months for a first offense. This crime is not a Measure 11 offense – it is a legislatively-adopted mandatory minimum sentence.

Here are the 16 Measure 11 crimes with their sentences:

Murder………………………………………………………………… 25 years
Manslaughter in the First Degree…………………………………10 years
Manslaughter in the Second Degree………….………………….6 years, 3 months
Assault in the First Degree……………………………………………7 years, 6 months
Assault in the Second Degree………………………….………….6 years, 3 months
Kidnapping in the First Degree………………………….…………7 years, 6 months
Kidnapping in the Second Degree…………….………..………..6 years, 3 months
Rape in the First Degree………………………….………….………8 years, 4 months
Rape in the Second Degree…………………….………………….6 years, 3 months
Sodomy in the First Degree…………………….……………….…..8 years, 4 months
Sodomy in the Second Degree……………….……………………6 years, 3 months
Unlawful Sexual Penetration in the First Degree………………..8 years, 4 months
Unlawful Sexual Penetration in the Second Degree………..…6 years, 3 months
Sexual Abuse in the First Degree……………………………………6 years, 3 months
Robbery in the First Degree……………………………………..….7 years, 6 months
Robbery in the Second Degree……………………………………6 years, 3 months

Reading the list discloses that with the exception of Murder there are no mandatory minimum prison sentences longer than 10 years under Measure 11. Furthermore, with broad law enforcement, victim, and Mr. Mannix’s support, Measure 11has been modified three times to give some discretion to judges in sentencing. Crime Victims United summarizes these modifications as follows:

SB 1049: Passed in 1997. Allows judges to make exceptions in Assault II, Kidnapping II, and Robbery II cases, when offender has no prior serious felony convictions. See ORS 137.712 for details.

HB 2494:
Passed in 1999. Provides exemption for Manslaughter II, when the victim is a sick or injured child being treated solely by spiritual means.

HB 2379: Passed in 2001. As to certain sex crimes, it allows judges to make exceptions for offenders without prior serious felony convictions, when the offender is within 5 years of the age of the victim, the victim was at least 12 years of age, and the victim’s lack of consent was due solely to the victim’s age.

MEASURE 11 AND THE DROP IN CRIME

From 1958 through 1994, violent crime in Oregon increased from year to year or remained at a very high level. In 1995, Measure 11 went into effect. For the next 10 years, Oregon was first among all 50 states in the reduction of violent crime. Today, compared to 1995, Oregon’s violent crime has dropped about 48%. The Criminal Justice Commission reported to the legislature in their 2007 report that incarceration has a significant effect on reducing crime. For Crime Victims United’s well- researched and detailed report about Measure 11, we encourage you to go to:

http://www.crimevictimsunited.org/measure11/presentation/pdf/cvu_measure11_notes.pdf

It is our belief that Measure 11 has significantly contributed to making Oregon safer. We suggest you speak with the law enforcement officials in your jurisdiction should you want to know more about the positive effects this voter-passed law has had for victims and all Oregonians.

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