State v. Austin
Case # A154061
Full Text of Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A154061.pdf
Defendant Austin was charged with Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (“DUII”) and Reckless Driving. Prior to trial commencing, defendant filed a motion seeking to waive his right to a jury trial on the Reckless Driving charge while having a jury trial on the DUII charge. The defendant sought this waiver in order to exclude evidence of his prior DUII diversion participation from being heard by the jury. This evidence would be relevant to the pending Reckless Driving charge, but would not be relevant and could not be used to determine guilt with regard to the pending DUII charge. The State opposed the motion on various grounds including that “it would be awkward” and that the State has the “ability to present [its] case however [it] want[s] to” and the trial court, “without stating a reason or making findings…ruled that it would exercise its discretion to refuse to consent to defendant’s waiver of jury trial.”
After admitting evidence of the prior DUII diversion during the course of trial, the trial court issued the following limiting instruction to the jury:
In this case the state has offered evidence that the defendant in a prior case participated in a [DUII] diversion program. You may consider the diversion only for its bearing, if any, on establishing the defendant’s mental state of recklessness in the Reckless Driving charge.
Specifically, the state has offered the evidence to prove that the defendant was aware of and consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a particular result would occur or that a circumstance existed.
You may not use this evidence for the purpose of drawing the inference that because the defendant participated in the diversion program that the defendant may be guilty of driving under the influence of intoxicants in this case.
After deliberating, the jury found defendant guilty on both counts. The defendant appeals the convictions assigning error to the trial court’s ruling denying his waiver of a jury trial on the reckless driving charge.
The Court of Appeals addresses an individuals ability to waive their right to a jury trial by quoting it’s decision in State v. Harrell/Wilson, 353 Or 247, 297 P3d 461 (2013) stating that “Under the Oregon Constitution, criminal defendants possess both the right to be tried by a jury and the concomitant right – albeit bound by judicial consent – to waive that jury trial guarantee in favor of a bench trial… In Oregon, that ability to waive trial by jury is a constitutional right that belongs to the individual who wishes to exercise it.” Judicial consent to a jury waiver is exercised to “ensure that the waiver is not the product of duress or misrepresentation…and permits the court to exercise its discretion with consideration of judicial economy.” In this case, the record does not reflect why the trial court denied to consent to the waiver of jury trial, and one of the prosecutors arguments, that the State has the “ability to present [its] case however [it] want[s] to,” is not a reason for which consent to the waiver can be denied. Therefore, the Court of Appeals remands the Reckless Driving charge to the trial court to “evaluate defendant’s waiver ‘taking into account considerations of speed, economy,’ the prosecutors preference in those terms, ‘and the continued protection of the defendant’s rights.’” The Court of Appeals declines to remand the DUII charge because “jurors are presumed to follow a trial court’s instructions” and the trial court issued an appropriate limiting instruction to the jury regarding its use of the evidence related to the prior DUII diversion.