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The Criminal Law Process in Oregon

The U.S. Constitution sets forth certain criminal proceedings that all states must follow, but there are some differences in how criminal defendants are processed. This article will briefly examine some of Oregon’s criminal procedures.

Arrest and Detention

You are subject to arrest based on an arrest warrant or if an officer observed you committing a crime or had sufficient probable cause to arrest you. For minor offenses, you can be issued a citation to appear in court.

MIranda rights consist of your right to remain silent, that what you say can and will be used against you in court, that may have an attorney present during questioning or that you can have one appointed if you cannot afford one.

Booking consists of taking your personal effects, identifying you, and then photographing and fingerprinting you before placing you in a cell or holding area. If you do not post bail, you must appear before a judge within 36 hours, unless your arrest was on a weekend or holiday.

Bail Bonds and Release

You may be released from custody on a conditional release, deposit bond or on your own recognizance. Bond or bail can be posted using a credit card, cashier’s check or cash. If securing a bond, a premium of 10 percent is required by the bond agent. The court will retain 15 percent of any posted amount.

Non-violent misdemeanor defendants may be released on personal recognizance if they live in Oregon, have no holds or warrants, have no record of nonappearances and sign an agreement promising to appear in court.

First Appearance/Arraignment and Plea

At the first appearance or arraignment, defendants are advised of the charges, as well as their rights to counsel and to remain silent, and are given another court day to appear with a criminal law attorney if one is not retained. In felony matters, a preliminary hearing is scheduled or the prosecution may opt to obtain a grand jury indictment. For misdemeanants with counsel, one of the following pleas is entered:

  • Guilty — Admitting to the charges and whatever sentence is imposed
  • Not guilty — Denying the charges, giving defendant time to negotiate a plea or prepare for trial.
  • Nolo contendre — No dispute to the charges (this is considered a guilty plea, although it may not be used against you in any civil lawsuit against you)

Oregon Plea Agreements

A plea agreement or plea bargain is a negotiated plea to reduce the defendant’s sentence or plea to a lesser offense. Most cases are plea bargained to save time, money and the risk of a harsher sentence.

For some cases eligible for early resolution, a suitable plea agreement can be arranged that involve only a fine and probation.

Grand Jury or Preliminary Hearing?

Felony defendants have a right to a preliminary hearing or probable cause determination. Only some cases will be presented to a grand jury to obtain an indictment, which precludes a preliminary hearing if held. If probable cause is found at the preliminary hearing, the defendant appears at a second arraignment where an information, or formal charging document, is presented and a plea is entered. A plea is also entered if an indictment has been issued.

Trial and Sentencing in Oregon

Jury trials are permitted only if the offense involves jail time of at least six months. In felony cases except for murder, a 12-person jury needs only 10 persons to convict. Misdemeanor cases involve six jurors, who all must agree to convict. The burden of proof is solely on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judges determine a defendant’s sentence pursuant to established guidelines with some discretion based on a pre-sentence report prepared by the probation department. This contains the defendant’s family and criminal history, employment record, circumstances of the offense, community connections, victim statements and recommendations of the investigating officer.

Help From an Oregon Defense Attorney

Oregon has its own criminal procedures despite similarities with most other states. If you face criminal charges, seek help from an Oregon criminal defense attorney.

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