Navigating the legal system can be intimidating. That’s probably why you asked for an attorney. Or maybe you said you didn’t want an attorney, and the judge convinced you otherwise. This guide is intended to give you some basic information about the legal process, and about being charged with a crime in Douglas County. We’ll cover all this stuff at the first appointment, but for those of you that want to find out everything they can in advance, here you are:
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you face the maximum penalties are:
- Class A — up to 364 days jail and a $6,250 fine;
- Class B — up to 180 days jail and a $2,500 fine;
- Class C — up to 30 days jail and $1,500 fine.
For felonies, the maximum possible penalties are:
- Class A — up to 20 years in prison and $375,000 fine;
- Class B — up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine;
- Class C — up to 5 years prison and a $125,000 fine.
Please don’t stress out regarding these maximum penalties – it is unlikely they apply to your situation. With the exception of Measure 11 (serious person-to-person crimes), Measure 57 (repeat drug and property crimes), and DUII, most felony sentences in Oregon are calculated based on criminal history using the sentencing guidelines grid.
Sentencing in Oregon is too complex to be dealt with in a simple web post, which is why you need a court appointed attorney. Please discuss all sentencing concerns related to your specific case with your attorney.
Plea bargains vs. going to trial
As a defendant, it is always YOUR decision whether to “take a deal” or go to trial. Very few cases end up in trial, simply because 1) prosecutors end up not pursuing their weakest cases and 2) many people end up taking a plea bargain if it spares them the risks jail or prison time, even if they do not believe they are guilty. As a client, you get to make the decision about whether to go to trial or whether to take a negotiated plea with the prosecutor. It is also your decision whether to do a jury trial or a judge trial, and whether to testify in your own defense. The prosecutor isn’t required to make a deal, but they typically do, because they are too busy to go to trial on every single case.
If police violated your constitutional rights, it may be possible to file a motion to have the evidence suppressed. If the crime you are charged with involves a victim who does not want the prosecution to continue, it may be possible to file a motion having the case dismissed. DO NOT TAKE MATTERS INTO YOUR OWN HANDS OR TALK TO VICTIMS. THIS COULD BE A VIOLATION OF THE RELEASE AGREEMENT YOU SIGNED, OR EVEN RESULT IN A NEW CHARGE SUCH AS TAMPERING WITH A WITNESS. THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE AN ATTORNEY.
The first appearance in a criminal or contempt matter is called an arraignment. At arraignment you receive a copy of the charges in writing, will be told your rights, and will get to ask for a court appointed attorney. In all criminal cases in Douglas County, the first real court date after your arraignment is called a status check and is typically 60 to 90 days from trial. The judge will want to know at that time whether the case is resolved, or whether you want to schedule a trial date. It is very important to meet with your attorney before that court date, and even more important that you attend that court date. If the case is resolved at the time of status check, you will be assigned to another courtroom for a change of plea that day. If a trial date is set at status check it will probably be about 90 to 150 days from the status check along with 2 other pre-trial hearings–one 30 days before and one the Monday before trial. It is very important that you meet with your attorney to prepare for trial well before the trial. Each case is different, and you need to consult with your attorney about how early and often you need to meet to properly prepare.
Douglas County information
There are four criminal trial judges in Douglas County, Judge Francis Burge is the presiding judge, room 303, Judge George Ambrosini, room 304, Judge Ann Marie Simmons, room 402, and Judge William Marshall, room 404. Judge Kathleen Johnson, room 403, does mostly civil matters, but does do some criminal cases. Judge Luke Stanton, the majority of juvenile dependency and delinquency matters (except termination of parental rights trials) and some criminal proceedings in room 401. Criminal trials are always at 9:30, but some juvenile and contempt trials start at different times. Typically, criminal status checks are set for Monday afternoons, with individual appearance dates set earlier in the morning during the week or just after lunch. You cannot bring cell phones past court security and will either need to pay 25 cents to lock them in a small locker or leave them somewhere secure before entering the courtroom area.
Jail and work crew
You can reach the Douglas County Jail at 541-440-4440 or on the web here. If you are taken to jail remember that ALL PHONE CALLS AND VISITS (except attorney visits) are recorded by the jail. So do not talk about the facts of any current criminal charge, any legal strategy or defense to those charges, or anything else that you wouldn’t say to a roomful of police officers. The jail does have a home monitoring program for people on house arrest. It requires that you have a job, a landline, and the ability to pay a daily supervision fee. Some crimes are not eligible for home monitoring, and the judge is not required to make you eligible even if you otherwise would be. Many minor crimes can be resolved with a work crew sentence instead of jail, or at least in combination with jail. You can reach the work crew office by calling 541-957-2072 or on the web here.
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