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Oregon legislature debates tougher criminal penalties

The criminal code in Oregon is constantly being revised, updated and changed by legislators. These fluctuating laws can create confusion for those unfamiliar with the criminal courts. Part of the revisions that are often made include increasing penalties for certain crimes. As these new laws and penalties are created, people facing criminal charges need to be mindful of their criminal defense strategy. Without understanding the laws, it can be difficult for people to defend against charges or to ensure that their rights are protected.

Recently, there has been a push to increase penalties associated with repeated animal neglect and abuse. Under Senate Bill 6, the penalties for animal neglect in the second degree would be increased from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. Furthermore, repeat offenders would be charged with a felony and could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Under this law, people could only be found guilty if they intentionally, recklessly or knowingly only provided minimum care for an animal.

Punishments for animal neglect in the first degree would be a felony with the potential for a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison for those found guilty. To be found guilty, an animal would have to be killed or suffer serious physical injury.

This bill is just one example of how legislators change criminal codes. If people are unaware of new changes to a particular criminal law, they may miss an opportunity to defend themselves. As a new law changes, so does the strategy to combat charges. In every case, people should not only be aware of the particular defenses available for a specific crime, but also they should understand their constitutional rights. These rights protect against certain abuses and give people the opportunity for fair criminal proceedings.

Source: Statesman Journal, "Stiffer laws sought for animal neglect," Queenie Wong, March 26, 2013

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