Oregon appeals court expands witness tampering, limits interrogation

The Oregon Court of Appeals, in two separate cases, expanded protection against witness tampering and strengthened protection against illegal interrogation. Here are highlights from The Daily Astorian article:

In a ruling Wednesday, the court rejected the appeal of a man who threatened to kill his daughter if she reported he was involved in the theft of all-terrain vehicles … [finding] it didn’t matter that the threat came before the man was prosecuted – he knew his daughter would very likely be a witness.

In an opinion by Judge Darleen Ortega, the court noted that under Oregon law, it is necessary only that “a defendant tampers with someone who he believes may be called as a witness.”

In a separate case from Washington County, the appeals court strengthened protection against illegal interrogation by overturning a search that found marijuana in a backpack in the trunk of a car during a routine traffic stop in April 2004.

Hyatt Robin Vondehn was a passenger in the car and was arrested on an unrelated charge when police learned a warrant against him was outstanding.

Officers smelled marijuana, and asked the driver for permission to search the car. When they found the backpack, police asked Vondehn for his consent to search it, and he granted it before officers advised him of his Miranda rights.

The court, in an opinion by Chief Judge David Brewer, threw out drug convictions for possession and delivery of a controlled substance because police found the marijuana only as a result of illegal questioning.

The court noted that during all of the questioning, Vondehn “was under arrest, handcuffed and in the back seat of a police car,” and “there was nothing about the backpack itself that tied it to defendant.”

The appeals court said that it and the Oregon Supreme Court both “have recognized that custodial interrogation is inherently coercive,” especially without a Miranda warning.

“Even though the reason for the arrest was not related to the subject of the questioning, those circumstances were sufficient to require Miranda warnings,” the opinion said.