Criminal Justice System

The District Attorney’s Office mission is to seek justice, ensuring that the guilty are held accountable, that the innocent are protected from unwarranted harm, and that the rights of all citizens, particularly victims of crime, are respected.

As a victim of a crime, you may find the criminal justice system confusing and frustrating. This information is provided to assist crime victims in understanding some of the steps a case may take in the criminal justice system. The following is only an outline; please remember that each case is unique.

 

Investigation

When a crime is reported, the police will usually interview the victim, suspect, possible witnesses and collect any physical evidence if possible. The suspect may or may not be arrested and placed in custody at the Deschutes County Jail.

 

Arrest and Release

When a suspect is arrested and is placed in custody, he/she may be released at any time. A victim can request to be notified of the suspect’s release by contacting Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) at 1-877-674-8463. When a suspect is released, he/she will sign a Release Agreement. Typically this agreement states that the suspect CAN NOT have contact with the victim. If the suspect contacts the victim, the victim may report the violation to their local police agency. If a violation has occurred, the suspect could be placed into custody or maintain his/her release with a warning NOT to re-contact the victim and sometimes, additional conditions are imposed.

 

Temporary Restraining Order and Stalking Protection Order

Victims may be eligible for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and/or a Stalking Protection Order. There are additonal protection orders available as well.  If you would like more information, you may call the Victims' Assistance Program at 541-388-6525.

 

District Attorney

When a case is opened by the District Attorney’s Office, the case is assigned to a Deputy District Attorney (DDA) to decide what charges, if any, should be brought against the suspect. If charged, the suspect is now referred to as the defendant. In cases involving violent felonies and some violent misdemeanors, a Victims' Assistance Coordinator (victim advocate)  is assigned to assist the victim(s). If any of the charges(s) are felonies, the DDA may take the case before a Grand Jury. If the charges are misdemeanor(s), the DDA files the charge(s) by Information. After a defendant is charged, he/she will appear before a judge to be arraigned on the charge(s).

 

Grand Jury

The Grand Jury determines if there is enough evidence to charge a defendant with a crime.  Most victims will need to testify before the Grand Jury. A judge is not present and usually the defendant is not present (there can be exceptions).

 

Arraignment

At arraignment, the Judge will inform the defendant of the charge(s). A plea hearing is scheduled and a defense attorney may be assigned to the defendant. If the defendant is being held in custody, a bail or release hearing may be scheduled.

 

Release Hearing

Bail hearings can be held anytime. A release hearing may be scheduled for a Judge to determine if the defendant should be held on bail and if so, the amount of bail, if any. The Judge may also impose additional release conditions.

 

Plea Hearing

A plea hearing is the time set for a defendant to enter a plea in regard to the charges. If a defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest, the Judge could sentence the defendant at that time or schedule a sentencing date. If a defendant enters a not guilty plea, a trial date will be set. It is important to know that a defendant may change his/her plea to guilty at any hearing and may be sentenced if the victim is present or has been notified. As the victim, you can attend any hearing and give an oral or written victim statement at sentencing.  It is important that the victim(s) keep the District Attorney's Office updated with contact information.

 

Trial

A trial can be either a bench or jury trial. A bench trial is where a Judge decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. A jury trial is where the jury members decide. On a verdict of not guilty, the charges are dismissed. With a verdict of guilty, a sentencing date is scheduled.  The Judge sentences the defendant.

 

Sentencing

At sentencing the victim has the right to give a victim impact statement to the Judge. If the victim is a child, the parent(s) also have the right to give a statement. A victim impact statement may be given verbally and/or in writing.

 

Prison and Jail Release Notification

A defendant sentenced to prison or jail will then be referred to as an inmate/prisoner. As the victim, if the defendant is sentenced to prison, you have the right to be informed of the inmate’s release date and any hearings. Victims who want to be notified will need to register with VINE. For defendants sentenced to prison victims will also need to register with the Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervison (503) 945-0907. If the defendant is sentenced to jail, you can be informed of the inmate’s release by registering with the VINE system. To register with VINE call 1-877-674-8463. VINE’s service is free.

 

Supervised Probation

A defendant sentenced to supervised probation (one that will be supervised by the Deschutes County Probation office) will be assigned a probation officer. The victim may find out the name of the defendant’s probation officer and the probation conditions by contacting the Deschutes County Probation office at 541-385-3246. Any violation(s) of the probation conditions will need to be reported to the probation officer.

 

Monitored Probation

Probation in which a defendant's compliance with court ordered conditions of probation are monitored by a monitoring agency (this is not classified as supervised probation). They can be reached at (541) 382-3224.

 

Court (Bench) Probation

A defendant sentenced to probation through the courts is not assigned a probation officer. The victim may contact the DDA assigned to the criminal case to find out the conditions of probation and to report any violation(s).  Violations may also need to be reported to the local law enforcement agency.

 

 Sex Offender Registration

If a defendant is required to register as a Sex Offender, the victim has the right to access certain information about the offender. A form is sent in the mail to the victim with the disposition notice that lists sentencing information. If you do not receive a form, you may contact the Victims' Assistance Program.