The primary question that this case presents is whether the state may rely on a statutory presumption to prove a traffic violation. We hold, as did the trial court and the Court of Appeals, that it may do so and accordingly affirm the Court of Appeals decision and the trial court's judgment.
A Portland police officer using "photo radar"
At the hearing, the state introduced evidence that "the photo radar unit detected and photographed a dark maroon utility vehicle with Oregon plate WVC313" exceeding the speed limit in violation of ORS 811.123, that defendant was the registered owner of that car, and that the state had mailed the citation to defendant in compliance with ORS 810.439. Beyond that, the state did not offer any evidence that defendant was driving her car when the violation occurred.
ORS 810.439(1)(b). Defendant did not offer any evidence to rebut the presumption; rather, she moved to dismiss the state's case at the close of the evidence on the ground that due process prevented the state from relying on the presumption to prove an element of its case. Without the presumption, defendant argued, the evidence was insufficient to establish that she was the driver.
The trial court rejected defendant's constitutional challenges, found that defendant had committed the traffic violation, and fined her $85. On appeal, the Court of Appeals rejected defendant's various challenges to the statutory presumption and affirmed the judgment. State v. Dahl, 185 Or.App. 149, 57 P.3d 965 (2002). We allowed review to consider the recurring question whether the state may rely on a statutory presumption to prove a traffic violation. See State v. Clay, 332 Or. 327, 331 n. 4, 29 P.3d 1101 (2001) (noting but not reaching various challenges to using presumption in ORS 810.439(1)(b) to prove traffic violations).
On review, defendant advances three reasons why the trial court should have granted her motion to dismiss. She argues initially that no reasonable trier of fact could find on this record that she was driving her car when the violation occurred. Alternatively, relying on state statutes and the Due Process Clause, she argues that the state may not rely on a presumption to prove an element of a traffic violation. Finally, defendant contends that, even if the state may rely on some presumptions to prove traffic violations, this presumption violates due process because the connection between the predicate and presumed facts is too tenuous.
Before addressing those issues, we begin by describing the statutory background against which they arise. The state cited defendant for driving 11 miles faster than the speed limit in an urban area. See former ORS 811.123 repealed by Or Laws 2003, ch 819, §§ 19, 21 (describing traffic violation). If the allegations in the citation are true, defendant committed a Class C traffic violation and was subject to a maximum fine of $150. See ORS 811.109(1)(b) (2001) amended by Or Laws 2003, ch 819, § 17 (identifying different classes of violations); ORS 153.018(2) (identifying maximum fines for violations).
Although a traffic violation is an "offense" within the meaning of the criminal code, ORS 161.505, it is not a crime, ORS 161.515.
ORS 810.439 sets out additional procedures for issuing citations and trying traffic violations based on "photo radar." If the state complies with certain specified conditions, ORS 810.439(1)(a) authorizes the state to issue a citation for speeding to the registered owner of the car pictured in the photograph. ORS 810.439(3) requires the court to dismiss the citation if the registered owner
In order to take advantage of the presumption, the state must prove two predicate facts—that the defendant is the registered owner of the car and that the state "issued and delivered" the citation in accordance with ORS 810.439. See ORS 810.439(1)(b) (stating predicate for presumption); Clay, 332 Or. at 331, 29 P.3d 1101 (discussing one predicate fact). If the state proves those predicate facts, then the statute provides that "a rebuttable presumption" exists. Beyond identifying the presumption as "rebuttable," the statute does not define its effect, and we turn to the customary method of statutory interpretation to determine the legislature's intent. See PGE v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 317 Or. 606, 859 P.2d 1143 (1993) (explaining statutory construction methodology).
We begin with the text and context of ORS 810.439(1)(b). See PGE, 317 Or. at 610-11, 859 P.2d 1143 (explaining methodology). As noted, the text of that paragraph uses the phrase "rebuttable presumption" but does not identify more precisely what the legislature intended. The phrase "rebuttable presumption" can refer to more than one procedural device. See Laird C. Kirkpatrick, Oregon Evidence § 308.03 (4th ed 2002) (identifying differing theories of rebuttable presumptions). It can refer to the common-law view, which holds that "a presumption disappears, or at least is reduced to an inference, in the face of legally sufficient rebutting evidence." Id. Alternatively, it can refer to the view, associated with Professor Edmund Morgan, that a rebuttable presumption shifts the burden of persuasion to the party against whom it is directed. Id.
In this case, the context makes the legislature's intent clear. Context includes related statutes as well as "the preexisting common law and the statutory framework within which the law was enacted." Denton and Denton, 326 Or. 236, 241, 951 P.2d 693 (1998). Here, the context includes OEC 308. That rule adopts Morgan's view of rebuttable presumptions and provides that, "[i]n civil actions and proceedings, a presumption imposes on the party against whom it is directed the burden of proving that the nonexistence of the presumed fact is more probable than its existence."
Another contextual source points in the same direction. In State v. Rainey, 298 Or. 459, 462 n. 2, 693 P.2d 635 (1985), the court noted that historically the legislature had distinguished among conclusive presumptions, rebuttable presumptions, and permissive inferences. The court explained that, because the legislature had omitted any reference to conclusive presumptions in the evidence code, "the only presumption remaining [in the Oregon Evidence Code] is one that is disputable or rebuttable within the terms specified in OEC 308." Id. The court thus made clear that, in Oregon, OEC 308 defines the terms on which a presumption may be rebutted in a civil action.
Reading ORS 810.439(1)(b) in context, we conclude that, when the legislature referred to a "rebuttable presumption" in that statute, it intended to refer to the procedural device described in OEC 308. It follows that, under ORS 810.439(1)(b), once the state proves the predicate facts, the presumption shifts the burden of persuasion (not just production) to the defendant to prove that he or she was not driving when the violation occurred. OEC 308; see Massee and Massee, 328 Or. 195, 203, 203 n. 3, 970 P.2d 1203 (1999) (describing effect of rebuttable presumption in ORS 107.105(1)(f)).
In support of her motion to dismiss, defendant argued to the trial court that the state had not introduced any evidence that she was the driver. We think that that argument was sufficient to put the trial court on notice that, in defendant's view, the state had to prove something more than that she was the registered owner; it had to introduce some evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could find that she was the person driving the car. See State v. Wyatt, 331 Or. 335, 343, 15 P.3d 22 (2000) (explaining that, to preserve issue, party must provide trial court with sufficient explanation to identify alleged error).
Although defendant preserved the issue, the trial court correctly denied her motion to dismiss. To be sure, no evidence identified defendant as the driver, but the trial court reasonably could find that defendant was the registered owner of the car and that the state issued and delivered the citation in accordance with ORS 810.439. If the court found those predicate facts, then ORS 810.439(1)(b) directed it to find that defendant was the driver unless she proved otherwise.
Defendant raises a second issue. Relying on state statutes and the Due Process Clause, she argues that ORS 810.439(1)(b) improperly relieves the state of the burden of proving an element of the traffic violation. We begin with defendant's statutory argument. Defendant notes that ORS 153.076(2) puts the burden on the state "of proving the charged violation by a preponderance of the evidence."
We question whether any conflict exists. ORS 153.076(2) provides that the state must prove each element of a traffic offense by a preponderance of the evidence. ORS 810.439(1)(b) identifies a specific situation in which the burden of persuasion shifts to the defendant. The latter statute carves out an exception to the former. To the extent, however, that a conflict exists, the specific statute controls over the general. See ORS 174.020(2) (so stating); Kambury v. Daimler-Chrysler Corp., 334 Or. 367, 374, 50 P.3d 1163 (2002) (explaining methodology for resolving conflicting statutes). The specific exception set out in ORS 810.439(1)(b) thus applies despite the state's general statutory obligation to prove a violation by a preponderance of the evidence.
Defendant argues, somewhat obliquely, that the court's decision in Rainey leads to a different result. In Rainey, the court held that the statutory requirement that the state prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt was inconsistent with and
Relying on Sandstrom, defendant argues alternatively that the Due Process Clause prevents the state from using a rebuttable presumption to prove an element of a violation. As defendant notes, the trial court in Sandstrom instructed the jury on a presumption that, at a minimum, shifted the burden of production on an element of the charged crime to the defendant. 442 U.S. at 517-18, 99 S.Ct. 2450. The United States Supreme Court held that that presumption was inconsistent with the requirement, grounded in the Due Process Clause, that the state prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 523-24, 99 S.Ct. 2450.
Sandstrom involved a crime, not a violation, and is not on point. The Due Process Clause requires the state to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, but that requirement does not extend to civil actions, such as this one. See Lavine v. Milne, 424 U.S. 577, 585, 96 S.Ct. 1010, 47 L.Ed.2d 249 (1976) (explaining that, "[o]utside the criminal law area, where special concerns attend, the locus of the burden of persuasion is normally not an issue of federal constitutional moment"); In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 368, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970) (holding that due process requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt applies to crimes and similar offenses). The Due Process Clause poses no impediment to shifting the burden of persuasion to the defendant on one element of a traffic violation.
Defendant advances a final argument. She contends that, even if the Due Process Clause does not prevent the state from using some presumptions to prove violations, this presumption violates due process because the connection between the predicate fact (that defendant was the registered owner) and the presumed fact (that defendant was driving) is too tenuous to satisfy due process. Relying on criminal cases, defendant argues that the presumed fact must follow "more likely than not" from the predicate fact. She contends that the presumption in ORS 810.439(1)(b) does not satisfy that standard because some people drive cars that they do not own.
Defendant uses the wrong constitutional standard. The United States Supreme Court has explained that "a criminal statutory presumption must be regarded * * * as unconstitutional, unless it can at least be said with substantial assurance that the presumed fact is more likely than not to flow from the proved fact on which it is made to depend." Leary v. United States, 395 U.S. 6, 36, 89 S.Ct. 1532, 23 L.Ed.2d 57 (1969) (emphasis added); see Ulster County Court v. Allen, 442 U.S. 140, 167, 99 S.Ct. 2213, 60 L.Ed.2d 777 (1979) (applying that standard to permissive inferences in criminal cases). The Court has applied a less stringent standard in civil cases, however. See Lavine, 424 U.S. at 585 n. 10, 96 S.Ct. 1010 (explaining distinction). The Court thus reaffirmed in Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Co., 428 U.S. 1, 96 S.Ct. 2882, 49 L.Ed.2d 752 (1976), that, to avoid a due process violation in a civil case,
"`it is only essential that there shall be some rational connection between the fact proved and the ultimate fact presumed, and that the inference of one fact from the proof of another shall not be so unreasonable as to be a purely arbitrary mandate.'"
Id. at 28, 96 S.Ct. 2882 (quoting Mobile, J. & K.C.R.R. v. Turnipseed, 219 U.S. 35, 43, 31 S.Ct. 136, 55 L.Ed. 78 (1910)).
In Usery, the Court upheld a rebuttable presumption that a "coal miner with 10 years' employment in the mines who suffers from pneumoconiosis will be presumed to have contracted the disease from his employment." 428 U.S. at 27, 96 S.Ct. 2882. In reaching that conclusion, the Court accepted the defendant's argument that the degree of exposure to coal dust was more relevant to the likelihood of contracting pneumoconiosis
Id. at 29-30, 96 S.Ct. 2882 (citation omitted).
The presumption in ORS 810.439(1)(b) satisfies the standard stated in Usery. The legislature's determination that the registered owner was driving his or her car is not "so unreasonable as to be a purely arbitrary mandate." See Usery, 428 U.S. at 28, 96 S.Ct. 2882 (stating standard). Rather, it was rational for the legislature to assume that registered owners commonly drive their own cars. As the state argues, without challenge by defendant, of all the conceivable purposes for which a person might register ownership of a vehicle in Oregon (including, for example, resale, investment or display as a collector's item), use of the vehicle for transportation exceeds all others. To paraphrase Usery, the legislature reasonably could select proof of ownership as the point at which the burden shifts to the registered owner to prove that he or she was not driving. See id. at 29-30, 96 S.Ct. 2882 (explaining why Congress's choice was reasonable). Having considered defendant's statutory and constitutional arguments, we hold that the state validly relied on the presumption in ORS 810.439(1)(b) to prove that defendant committed a traffic violation.
The decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court are affirmed.