OREGON DISTRICT ATTORNEYS
The Mission of the Oregon District Attorney is to uphold the laws and Constitution of the State of Oregon and the United States Constitution, to preserve the safety of the public, to protect the rights of crime victims, and to pursue justice for all with skill, honor and integrity.
EFFECTIVE AND FAIR PROSECUTION
The criminal justice system has evolved significantly in the past 20 years. Oregon’s District Attorneys are at the forefront of helping a system that protects public safety also offer the highest possible levels of transparency, accountability and community engagement.
The only way our criminal justice system works for everyone, is if we have the community as our partners in public safety. The vast majority of what happens in the criminal justice system is open to the public. Court hearings, documents and decisions, at various stages of a criminal case, are open to the public. For the most part, the community gets their information about crime is from the media.
Oregon DAs work with the media to help provide information in a way that encourages public participation. Some District Attorneys have Public Information Officers who distribute information and others work with the media themselves. When communicating information to the public about criminal cases, District Attorneys have to follow strict ethical rules designed to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial, and also protect the integrity of investigations.
Despite what you may have heard, Oregon DAs are among the most accountable elected officials in the state.
Prosecutors conduct their work in a highly visible way. Literally everything we do is subject to scrutiny and oversight. Every trial is open to the public, as is much of every court file. Records in the prosecutor’s office are considered public and may be sought via a request and replace. The media spend a large part of its time reporting on criminal cases.
Because of our adversarial system, defense attorneys scrutinize every action that prosecutors take in each case. In fact, the defense attorney’s duty is to bring issues and concerns about the prosecution to the court. Prosecutors are also accountable to the court.
The trial and appellate judges review everything prosecutors do and will take action if a prosecutor violates the law. All prosecutors are subject to very strict ethical regulations from the Oregon State Bar. Any deviation from these requirements can result in disciplinary action against the prosecutor, including the potential for disbarment.
Prosecutors are accountable to the victims and witnesses they work with, who are able to observe first-hand the manner in which the prosecutor does his job. Finally, prosecutors are accountable to the community, and they must run for re-election every four years.
Fairness, Equity and Inclusion
Oregon DAs are absolutely committed to fairness, equity and inclusion for all citizens
of Oregon. DAs make charging decisions based solely on three criteria: the law, the
evidence and the interests of justice. Race is not a factor, nor gender, sexual orientation,
occupation, social status or income level.
Prosecutors care about victims, defendants, and their families. While DAs work hard to
remove dangerous and violent criminals from our streets, they also realize that prison
is not the answer for many who are charged with lower-level crimes. Oregon DAs
routinely seek probation, a treatment court or other alternatives-to-prison programs
because they believe that people have the ability to change and become productive
members of society.
Although prosecutors do not sentence those convicted, when recommending an appropriate sentence to the judge, Oregon DAs make their suggestions based on the type of crime, the criminal history of the defendant and the interests
Believe it or not, restraint is one of the most powerful tools that a prosecutor has to improve our community. For a serious violent felony like a homicide, prosecutors often seek a high sentence. However, for low-level felonies, prosecutors may seek diversion, probation or various other alternatives to incarceration.
Leadership in the Evolution of the Justice System
Oregon DAs have always been leaders in the evolution of our criminal laws to protect the rights of victims and defendants. Compared to the 1980’s, Oregon is now one of the nation’s safest states. It was not an accidental turnaround; but instead reflects decades of hard work by dedicated public officials and citizens who recognized that our safety is the cornerstone to the vitality of our communities.
For a more complete view of the role Oregon prosecutors have had in the evolution of the criminal justice system in Oregon, here is a link to a full report.
It’s a fact. All the police and prosecutors in the world can’t make a community safe if the
citizens are not engaged in an active partnership with law enforcement. Oregon DAs
understand this and strive to foster strong relationships with the community in many ways.
All across our state, DAs are an integral part of the community they represent. Each county
in the state of Oregon has an elected District Attorney who is a member of their
community. DAs are elected by their local communities out of a desire to have a local and
accountable prosecutor who is in touch with the community’s values. Rather than being
sent from Washington DC or the state capital, Oregon District Attorneys are your neighbors.
DAs love to get feedback from the people they represent and protect. It’s not uncommon to find your DA speaking at a community meeting, or even visiting with constituents at a local coffee shop. If you are interested in having your DA speak to your group, contact your local district attorney.
Fiscal Accountability: Stewardship of Local Tax Dollars
Contrary to many urban legends of popular culture, the District Attorneys’ Offices do NOT have unfettered access to a bottomless checkbook just because they are funded by the government. In fact, there are layers of accountability. Each elected DA is required to account for every dollar spent to both the Oregon legislature every two years and every year to their County Commission. Oregon DA’s Offices are primarily funded through local county tax dollars. Local county governments provide between 75% and 95% of all funding for the District Attorneys’ Offices. Oregon's District Attorneys never forget that it is YOUR money they are using to try to hold the 1% of the population who victimizes the other 99% accountable.