HOW DO I REPORT A CRIME? Contact your local police agency to report a crime. If this is an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.
WHAT TYPICALLY HAPPENS DURING A CRIMINAL PROSECUTION IN MALHEUR COUNTY? WHAT ARE THE STEPS? Please see our Overview of the Criminal Justice System web page for a summary … from the crime occurring through sentencing and appeals.
I RECEIVED A SUBPOENA – NOW WHAT HAPPENS? You may be subpoenaed to testify as a witness in a criminal case if you are a victim, saw what happened or have other information related to the case. Your subpoena will tell you the date and time to appear in court. Unless you are instructed otherwise, you should report to the District Attorney’s Office at the time indicated on the subpoena. This will give you time before going to court to talk with the Deputy District Attorney assigned to the case and get some idea of what you will be asked in court.
WHAT IS GRAND JURY? The grand jury is a group of seven citizens who are selected from the jury pool to hear evidence on crimes committed in Malheur County. After hearing the testimony of the witnesses, the grand jury decides whether or not to issue an indictment (file charges) against the defendant. Grand jury proceedings are confidential, they are not held in a courtroom and no judge is present. Under most circumstances, the only persons permitted to attend the grand jury hearing are the grand jurors, the District Attorney and the witnesses, who testify one at a time. Neither the defendant nor the defendant’s attorney is allowed to be present while witnesses are testifying. No information may be released.
WHAT WILL THE DEFENDANT’S SENTENCE BE? Sentencing in Oregon varies with the crime committed and can be one of the more confusing parts of the criminal justice system. In Oregon judges have a great deal of discretion in sentencing misdemeanor sentences. Felony case are sentenced pursuant to the Oregon Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines limit a judge’s ability to use discretion in the decision making process.
Misdemeanors generally carry a maximum sentence of 30 days to 1 year in jail depending upon classification. These cases most often result in probationary sentences with requirements regarding counseling, work crew, fines or jail.
Felony crimes range from a minimum sentence of 5 years to a maximum sentence of life in prison. However, it is important to remember that sentencing guidelines greatly reduce a judges ability to impose lengthy prison sentences. Oregon law does allow for longer jail sentences for repeat property offenders and does have mandatory minimum sentences for certain violent felonies.
WHAT IS AN EXPUNGEMENT? HOW DO I GET ONE? Oregon law allows a person to apply to set aside the record of an arrest and certain convictions. Expungement is the process by which a criminal conviction and/or arrest is erased from court records. The court orders official records sealed and it is as if the violation leading to the arrest or conviction did not occur. Some crimes may not be expunged. The Oregon Statute outlining this process is ORS 137.225. Contact a staff member of the Malheur County Circuit Court at 541-473-5171 for an explanation of the process and to obtain the forms for expungement.
IF I AM A DEFENDANT, CAN I SPEAK TO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OR REQUEST DISCOVERY? The District Attorney cannot speak to a defendant or provide Discovery before he/she is arraigned. The charges will be explained to the defendant at the time of arraignment. Defendants may request Discovery after they are arraigned, but if the defendant will be represented by a lawyer it is better to have their lawyers request the discovery.
WILL THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE GIVE ME A COPY OF THE POLICE REPORT? Victims may request a copy of the police report through their advocates. Defendants will have access to police reports in their discovery.
AM I A “CRIME VICTIM”? Under Oregon law, a “victim” means an individual who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime. If the victim is deceased, then that person’s spouse, child, parent, guardian or grandparent might qualify. If the victim is a minor (under age 18), then the victim’s parent, guardian, or custodian may choose to exercise the child-victim’s rights. If the victim is mentally or emotionally unable to participate in the legal process, then his or her parent, guardian or custodian may exercise the rights.
WHAT RIGHTS DO I HAVE AS A VICTIM OF CRIME? You have rights as a victim of a crime. Some rights are automatic, but some must be specifically requested by the victim to go into effect. If you are the victim of a crime and would like to invoke certain rights, please complete the Victims’ Rights Request form. For a comprehensive summary of victims’ rights, see Victims’ Rights.
WHAT IS A NO CONTACT ORDER? Victims will be referred to an advocate.
WHAT IF SOMEONE THREATENS ME? Concerns about your well-being and safety after being victimized or witnessing a crime are normal. If you have any fears or receive any threats concerning your involvement in a case, you should immediately contact the law enforcement agency that investigated the case, or the District Attorney’s Office. In an emergency situation, call 911. Do so as soon as possible so that the threats can be documented and appropriate actions taken. There are laws to protect you against people who attempt to bribe, intimidate, threaten, or harass you.
WHAT IF THE DEFENSE ATTORNEY CONTACTS ME? In representing a client, a defense attorney may contact you and want to talk to you about the case. Keep in mind that you do not have to talk to anyone about the crime, including the defense attorney or their investigator prior to testifying in court. If you choose to do so, always request proper identification and an explanation of the purpose of the interview. If you have any concerns about talking with a defense attorney or their investigator, you are encouraged to contact the Deputy District Attorney in charge of your case and to have him/her with you at the time of the interview.
I AM THE VICTIM AND I WANT TO DROP THE CHARGE. CAN I? Many people incorrectly believe that a victim has the power to “press charges” against the wrongdoer, or to later “drop the charges”. All crimes are offenses against the community, not just the individual victim. Criminal complaints are prosecuted on behalf of the State of Oregon, not the people who called the police or those who were personally harmed by the defendant’s conduct. ONLY the District Attorney can issue or dismiss charges. This is important because it takes the responsibility for prosecuting the wrongdoer off the victim’s shoulders and puts it on the District Attorney’s, where it legally belongs. It also means that the defendant cannot “pressure” the victim into dropping the charges.
Although the decision whether to prosecute or not prosecute is ultimately up to the District Attorney, the victim’s opinion is important and the District Attorney will take those wishes into account when making his or her decisions regarding the case. A variety of factors are taken into account when deciding whether to honor a complainant’s request not to proceed with a prosecution, including the nature and extent of the defendant’s prior criminal history, the severity of the alleged crime, whether the defendant has other pending charges in the criminal justice system, and future danger the defendant poses to the community (including the current victim).
HOW DO I GET A RESTRAINING ORDER? To apply for a restraining order, you may: (1) contact Project Dove, the local domestic violence advocacy center, at (541) 889-6316; (2) request a restraining order packet from the Malheur County Circuit Court; or (3) download the restraining order forms from the Circuit Court website. If there are criminal charges filed against the person you are seeking to restrain, or if you are in a crisis situation, an advocate from the District Attorney’s office will go through the application process with you to determine if you qualify for a restraining order. In all other situations, you will be encouraged to contact Project Dove for additional victim services, such as safety planning, shelter, educational classes, referral to community resources.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I AM A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT? First, contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus (listed on the Identity Theft Resources page). Request that a “fraud alert” be placed in your file, including a statement that creditors should get your permission before opening any new accounts in your name. At the same time, ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit reports. They must give you a free copy if you believe it to be inaccurate because of fraud. Review the report carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts. In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
Second, contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department, and tell them what has happened. Record who you spoke with and when; and ask them what has happened. Record who you spoke with and when; and ask them for their direct phone number. Finally, follow up your conversation with a letter. Following up with a letter is one of the procedures spelled out in the Fair Credit Billing Act for resolving errors on credit billing statements, including charges that you have not made.
Third, file a report with your local law enforcement agency, or the agency located where the identity theft occurred. Keep copies of this report because some creditors may want proof.
THE JUDGE ORDERED THE DEFENDANT TO PAY RESTITUTION TO ME, BUT SO FAR I HAVEN’T RECEIVED ANYTHING. WHO CAN HELP ME? If the defendant is on probation, call the Malheur County Community Corrections—541-889-2804— and ask for the probation officer who is assigned to the case. The probation officer can help you get your money if restitution was a condition of the defendants probation and if the defendant is still on probation. Otherwise, see a private lawyer, because the restitution order is a court order that you can enforce like any civil judgement.
HOW DO I GET MY PROPERTY BACK? If your property was stolen and recovered by the police, it can sometimes be returned to you before the case is done; if the items are important pieces of evidence, in most cases we will need to keep the property secured in police custody. Ultimately, the decision whether evidence is released must be made by one of our office’s attorneys. Contact the District Attorney’s Office at the number shown below to request return of your property.
HUNTING RIGHTS. Our office cannot give out legal advice, please contact a lawyer.