Distracted Driving and Other Important Changes in Oregon Laws


The past couple of years have brought a host of changes to Oregon laws that affect all Oregonians. Laws ranging from distracted driving to possession of illegal narcotics have seen changes, and the legal system now treats these issues different than before. 

Today, we’ll go over key changes to Oregon laws concerning:

  • Distracted Driving Laws

  • Sex Offender Registration

  • Ignition Interlock Devices

  • Criminal Drug Possession

We’ll go over each change and how it relates to you as an Oregon citizen. 



Distracted Driving Laws 

Recently, distracted driving laws have been put in place to ensure drivers have their eyes on the road and not on their phones. 

In 2009, the Oregon State Legislature passed a bill requiring Oregon drivers to use a hands-free device to make calls and outlawing texting while driving. 

However, the law left open some gray area that was interpreted by the Oregon Court of Appeals to mean that drivers could still use their phone for other purposes. This left actions such as changing music, operating a navigation application, or even watching videos completely legal.


Changes to Oregon Distracted Driving Laws

Oregon lawmakers realized the loophole and have expanded the law to reflect its original intent, which is to prevent distracted driving through the use of any action on a cell phone.

As of October 1, 2017, Oregon drivers are no longer able to operate their phones. This means no holding or touching your phone while driving no matter the reason. Actions, like changing music and operating GPS navigation, are on the same level as texting in the eyes of the law. 

The only exceptions to this rule are:

  • Activating or deactivating a function, which must be limited to one touch or swipe.

  • Dialing 911, but only if there are no other passengers in your vehicle who could reasonably make the call instead.

  • If you are using a hands-free device.


What Does This Mean for Oregon Drivers?

Oregon drivers should take note, as they will now need to take care of business on their phones prior to getting behind the wheel. 

Some additional things to consider:

  • Functions like navigation and music can be on, but both of your hands still must be touching the wheel while driving.

  • The law applies even if you are stopped at a red light. If the car is on, but safely parked on the side of the road or in a parking lot, you are free to operate your phone.

  • This rule applies to all mobile devices – including tablets, GPS navigators, e-readers, and laptops.


Fines for the Oregon Distracted Driving Law

The breakdown of offenses are as follow:

  • First Offense: Presumptive fine of $260

  • First Offense that contributes to a crash: Presumptive fine of $435

  • Second Offense: Presumptive fine of $435

  • Third Offense Within 10 Years: A misdemeanor offense with a possible six-month jail sentence and minimum $2,000 fine



Sex Offender Registration

When an individual is convicted of a sex crime in Oregon, they are required to register as a sex offender. Oregon law previously stated that any person could be granted registration relief if:

  • 10 years had passed since the individual was released from parole, probation, or post-prison supervision.

  • The individual had only one conviction of a sex crime.

  • The sex crime was a misdemeanor or class C felony.

  • The individual was not deemed a predatory sex offender.


Changes in the Sex Offender Registration Law

In 2013, the Oregon House passed a law aiming to do a better job of classifying sexual predators by the risk they posed to re-offend. For those most likely to re-offend, it will now be harder to be removed the sex offender list-- also known as finding “registration relief. For those who are less likely to re-offend, the process will now be easier.

As of January 1, 2017, the Oregon Board of Parole and Post Prison Supervision will now classify all sex offenders on a rolling basis. Depending on the crimes committed, sex offenders will be classified on one of three levels:

  • Level 3: High Risk

  • Level 2: Moderate Risk

  • Level 1: Low Risk

All three levels have different types of public notification. This ranges from notification to anyone residing with the offender for level 1, to notification to the media and full registration on the sex offender registry website for level 3.


What Do The Sex Offender Registration Levels Mean

Each level will now have different criteria for gaining relief from registering as a sex offender.

For Level 3, you will never be fully granted relief from registration. After 10 years of not being supervised by the court, you can apply to be reclassified as a level 2 sex offender. You will never be able to gain reclassification to level 1.

For Level 2, you can file to be reclassified as a level 1 offender after 10 years of not being supervised by the court.

For Level 1, you can petition for relief after 5 years of not being supervised by the court. 

This relief is not guaranteed and is subject to the Oregon Board of Parole and Post Prison Supervision discretion. 



Ignition Interlock Device Requirements for DUII Cases

If convicted of a DUII in Oregon, your driving privileges will be suspended. 

In many cases, you will be able to regain your driving privileges and your license by installing an ignition interlock device in your car. 

An ignition interlock device, or IID, is a breathalyzer installed in an individual's car. The device is attached to the ignition and will only start the car if you are under the programmed BAC level allowing you to drive.


Changes to the Ignition Interlock Device Requirements

While there are no changes to the requirements that you use an IID before regaining your license, there are now avenues to vacate use of it after 6 months.

If you have entered an alcohol and drug treatment program, you can apply to have your IID removed. The conditions are as follow: 

  • The IID device has been installed for 6 months.

  • Through the 6 months, there have been no “negative reports” logged by the device. A negative report is defined by an attempt to tamper or remove the device or a failure to pass a test when starting your car.

  • You have been in compliance with a drug and alcohol treatment plan.

If you’ve reached 6 months, you can file to have the device removed and your ability to drive restored. 

It should be noted that this vacation does not affect any other requirements of your case, and only allows for the removal of the IID device. 



Criminal Drug Possession

Prior to this past summer, even small amounts of illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or LSD were classified as a felony. 

This means if caught, you were liable to receive up to 10 years in prison, even without any indication you were selling the drugs. This was even the case for defendants with no prior convictions on their records.


Changes in the Criminal Possession of Drugs

In August 2017, the Oregon legislature passed a bill turning small level possession charges for first-time offenders into a misdemeanor. 

Depending on the drug, “small level” is categorized by:

  • Cocaine or Methamphetamine: Under 2 grams

  • Heroin: Under 1 gram

  • Ecstasy or MDMA: Under 40 pills

  • LSD: Under 40 units

Charges for larger amounts will remain the same, as will charges for anyone with a prior conviction.

Unfortunately, existing charges will remain on the books for prior felony convictions. This means you will not be able to wipe off any prior convictions, even if under the new laws it would have been a misdemeanor.


Do Any Of These New Laws Apply to You? 

Do you feel you can be helped by any of these law changes and need to speak to an experienced attorney? Adam Greenman Law Can Help.

Contact me today at (503) 227-3800 to hear your options. Your consultation is always free and completely confidential. 

Adam Greenman
Adam Greenman has been a trusted criminal defense and personal injury attorney in Portland for over 15 years. A graduate of Lewis and Clark School of Law and an experienced former prosecutor, Adam is a proud member of the Oregon State Bar Association, Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. He is known for providing personal, one-on-one attention to clients.