Legal Section Archives

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Oregon Senate prez wants distracted driving penalties on par with drunk driving

Posted on December 16th, 2016 at 12:02 pm.

Distracted driver being distracted.jpg

Stop it. You’re drunk.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation has been beating a steady drum all year about one very important part of their approach to traffic safety: distracted driving. Now it looks like the Oregon legislature has their back and we could see a major change to the law in the 2017 session.

According to a story in the Salem Statesmen-Journal Wednesday, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) wants to significantly ramp up the legal consequences for people caught driving while texting, talking, or using social media apps. In fact, he’s so concerned about the threat of distractions that he wants to expand Oregon’s existing cell phone law (ORS 811.507) and make the penalties commensurate with driving under the influence.

From the Statesmen-Journal:[Read more…]

Man charged with death of Mitch York is back in custody facing new manslaughter charge

Posted on November 18th, 2016 at 10:14 am.

Schrantz booking photo.

Schrantz booking photo.

Joel Schrantz, the man with a long driving record who was driving on a suspended license when he failed to control his car and allowed it to slam into and kill Mitch York on the St. Johns Bridge last month, is back in custody.

After being initially arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide, Schrantz posted $2,000 bail (10 percent of total bail amount) and was set free pending trial. We confirmed with residents in his St. Johns neighborhood that he was indeed back at home. We also confirmed with the District Attorney’s office that Schrantz was under court mandate to check-in with law enforcement everyday and was not allowed to drive a car.

This past Tuesday, Schrantz was back in court to face formal charges in the case. According to Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Elisabeth Waner, the Grand Jury returned an indictment for the enhanced charge of manslaughter in the second degree (ORS 163.125). This is significant because manslaughter is a much more serious crime than criminally negligent homicide.
[Read more…]

Bike law expert says PBOT’s crossbike markings create confusion

Posted on October 12th, 2016 at 3:39 pm.

A crossbike at Tillamook and NE 15th. (Photo: Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton)

A crossbike at Tillamook and NE 15th.
(Photo: Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton)

This post is part of our Get Legal series made possible by Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

When we first reported on crossbikes in August, concerns about them began almost immediately. While some people were happy to see the increased visibility for bicycling traffic at crossings via the big green stripes, others said the treatment creates confusion.

Now Ray Thomas, the Portland lawyer who literally wrote the book on Oregon bike law, is adding his voice to the chorus of concerns.

Before we get into his critique, let’s review what crossbikes are and what problem they aim to solve. [Read more…]

Local environmental group targets “rolling coal” offenders

Posted on August 30th, 2016 at 2:46 pm.

Image from notice of intent to sue filed by Northwest Environmental Defense Center.

Image from notice of intent to sue filed by Northwest Environmental Defense Center.

“Rolling coal” is a vile act and one of the many deviant behaviors commonly displayed by people who operate motor vehicles.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, let us explain how it works.

Imagine you’re out enjoying a nice bike ride on a beautiful road. Then the driver of a large diesel truck comes up next to you and purposely slams on the gas pedal to emit a huge plume of toxic black exhaust right in your face.

We told you it was vile. But unfortunately it happens more than you might think.
[Read more…]

Is Biketown bike share for all? Or only the able-bodied?

Posted on June 2nd, 2016 at 1:49 pm.

Handcycle ride wth Ian Jaquiss

Hand-cycle riders like Ian Jaquiss won’t be able to use Portland’s bike share system.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland is launching a bike share program with 1,000 bikes. But what about people with who need to ride a hand-cycle or a recumbent or a trike due to a physical disability? Will they be able to use this new system?

That’s a question raised by city council candidate Chloe Eudaly just six weeks before Portland’s Nike-sponsored Biketown system is set to launch.
[Read more…]

Linn County DA won’t prosecute driver who admitted checking his phone before deadly hit-and-run crash

Posted on March 17th, 2016 at 11:20 am.

“The evidence shows that (the driver) diverted his attention away from the road in the moments immediately preceding the crash… he noticed something on his phone, which was on the seat next to him. He then looked down, and it was in this moment that the crash occurred.”
— Alex Olenick, Linn County Deputy DA

A case from Corvallis should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who uses our roads.

As reported today by the Gazette Times, the Linn County District Attorney’s Office has decided to not file charges against the driver who hit and killed 34-year-old Shiloh Sundstrom while he was walking on the side of a road east of Corvallis on the night of November 22nd. The auto user admitted to drinking and looking down at his phone prior to the crash. Despite these facts, the Deputy DA Alex Olenick said the evidence wasn’t enough to prove the driver acted with criminal negligence.

We’ve covered this legal situation numerous times and are aware of the existing limitations in Oregon law around traffic crashes. The threshold to prove intentional and reckless behavior by the driver of a car in situations like this is very high and often — even when it’s clear that a person’s behavior was dangerous and led to the crash — DA’s feel they must decline to prosecute.

What makes this case stand out however, is the statement Olenick made in his report. Here’s the relevant excerpt from Olenick’s memo (taken from Gazette Times with my emphasis):
[Read more…]

New Oregon law expands insurance coverage in traffic crashes: What you need to know

Posted on January 6th, 2016 at 2:35 pm.

New signal at Cook and Vancouver-3.jpg

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

This guest article was written by Cynthia Newton as part of our ongoing paid partnership with Portland law firm Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

Senate Bill 411, passed by Oregon’s legislature in 2015, will help Oregonians injured in vehicular collisions by expanding benefits under two sections of their automobile policies: Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2016, and applies to policies issued or renewed on or after that date. In this article I’ll share more information about those two types of insurance, how the new law impacts them, and why this is important for people who drive, walk or bike.
[Read more…]

Woman sues for over $670,000 after collision caused serious injuries

Posted on July 24th, 2015 at 12:50 pm.

lawsuitlead

via The Oregonian

Cindy Lewellen, a 45-year old Portland resident who’s well-known in the local riding scene, filed a lawsuit this week against two people that she believes are liable for a collision that caused her serious injuries back in November.

It happened on NW St. Helens Road near that notorious intersection of Kittridge and Yeon (where the new Forest Park entrance is slated to go).

According to the lawsuit Lewellen was riding south in the bike lane. As she approached a driveway that led to United Rentals, a person driving in the adjacent lane had stopped for someone who wanted to turn left into the driveway. Here’s what happened next (according to the lawsuit, emphasis mine):[Read more…]

Man wins in court three years after police, insurance company blamed him for collision

Posted on June 25th, 2015 at 12:03 pm.

Still from KGW-TV video taken at the scene in 2012.

A Portland man who was blamed for a collision on a notorious section of North Broadway three years ago has been absolved in court.

Three years ago 33-year old Karl Zickrick was riding down North Broadway on his way to work. As he approached Wheeler he noticed a large SUV encroaching into the bike lane in front of him as it prepared to turn right. To avoid being right-hooked, Zickrick moved to the left out of the bike lane to go around the SUV. However, just as he made that move the driver of the SUV, 62-year-old Michael McLerren, slammed on his brakes and Zickrick flew into the back window. The impact shattered the window and left Zickrick with severe facial injuries and a broken jaw. (Two months after this collision, former Mayor Sam Adams decided to prohibit all right turns onto Wheeler.)

Adding insult to injury, the Portland Police Bureau blamed Zickrick for the collision. The day the crash occurred the PPB said this in an official statement (emphases mine): [Read more…]

DIY prosecution of dangerous vehicle operators: A guide from Ray Thomas

Posted on June 9th, 2015 at 11:44 am.

Fighting for fixed gears in court

Take ’em to court.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been over nine years now since we first shared the concept of “citizen initiated citations” here on BikePortland. At that time it was a little-known statute. Today, people are a bit more aware of it; but it’s still not a process that many people have gone through.

Unfortunately however, it’s still needed. As the number of people who operate vehicles illegally shows no signs of letting up and enforcement resources remain abysmal, it’s often the only option for justice. With an unusually high number of collisions and other incidents reported lately, we’ve decided to publish this article from Ray Thomas, the Portland-based lawyer and expert on bicycling issues who’s been at the forefront of citizen prosecution for nearly a decade.

(Note: Thomas uses “drivers” in his article, but his advice can be used by any road user regardless of how they get around.) — Jonathan Maus

Citizen Prosecution of Dangerous Drivers: How You Can Do It for Yourself[Read more…]