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FAQ: Oregon Domestic Violence Cases

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If you’re reading this, the odds are good that you or someone you know has been charged with domestic violence in the State of Oregon. If this is the case, you are probably confused, worried and looking for answers. You want to know what you can do, what’s going to happen and how you can get through this situation and get on with your life.

This article is here to help answer some of the questions that you may have. Reading through it, you’ll learn a little more about how the authorities handle Oregon domestic violence cases and what options you might have as your case moves forward through the court system.

As you do read, keep in mind that the State of Oregon takes the crime of domestic violence very seriously. Law enforcement officers are trained to err on the side of caution in any potential domestic violence situation, protecting a potential victim by mandatorily arresting the alleged offender. Prosecutors typically take a dim view of domestic violence charges, often pursuing cases that otherwise wouldn’t be pursued and limiting the availability of plea bargain options.

Because of this, if you have any other questions, or have an upcoming domestic violence court date, it is strongly recommended that you contact an experienced Oregon domestic violence defense attorney, like the attorneys at Siefman Law LLC. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation and let us answer the questions you might have regarding your domestic violence charges.

What Are the Most Common Domestic Violence Charges in Oregon?

The most common domestic violence charges in Oregon are harassment and assault, both of which are usually misdemeanor crimes. However, the charges brought against you will be determined by the specifics of your situation. Because of that, below is a list of all of the most commonly charged domestic violence offenses:

Assault II (felony) - Intentionally or knowingly causing serious physical injury to another, intentionally or knowingly causing physical injury to another by means of a deadly or dangerous weapon or recklessly causing serious physical injury to another by means of a deadly or dangerous weapon under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life;

Assault III (felony) - Recklessly causing serious physical injury to another by means of a deadly or dangerous weapon, recklessly causing serious physical injury to another under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, or recklessly causing physical injury to another by means of a deadly or dangerous weapon under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life;

Assault IV (misdemeanor) - Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing injury to another;

Assault IV (felony) - Committing a misdemeanor assault in front of minor children or committing a misdemeanor assault against someone who you  have previously been convicted of assaulting in the past;

Strangulation (misdemeanor) - Intentionally or knowingly impeding the breathing or circulation of another by the application of pressure to the neck;

Harassment (misdemeanor) - Intentionally subjecting another to annoying or harassing physical contact which did not result in injury;

Menacing (misdemeanor) - Intentionally placing another person in fear of serious physical injury;

Interference With Making a Report (misdemeanor) - removing, damaging or interfering with a telephone line, telephone or similar communication equipment, intentionally preventing or hindering another person from making a report to a law enforcement agency, a law enforcement official or an agency charged with the duty of taking public safety reports or from making an emergency call; and

Coercion (felony) - Threatening another person with physical violence in order to keep them from doing something they are entitled to do or to make them do something they don’t want to do.

What Happens After a Domestic Violence Arrest in Portland?

After a domestic violence arrest in Portland, the police are required to prepare a report on their investigation and its outcome. That report, along with any additional documentation, is forwarded to the Domestic Violence (DV) Unit of the Multnomah County District Attorney. The DV Unit is responsible for handling all of the domestic violence cases that arise in the county.

A prosecutor with the DV Unit will then review the police report to see if the facts in the report support the domestic violence charges that resulted in your arrest. If they do, the next step is usually an interview with the victim. If the victim is going to cooperate with the DA's office and wants you prosecuted, then it is virtually guaranteed that formal charges will be brought against you.

What If My Spouse/Partner Wants to Drop the Charges Against Me?

As we discussed at beginning of the article, Oregon is strict when it comes to domestic violence. This means that once the wheels of justice are set in motion on a domestic violence charge, they are hard to stop.

When a prosecutor in the DV Unit of the DA’s office receives the official police report regarding a domestic violence arrest, they will almost always contact the victim. If your spouse/partner didn’t want you arrested in the first place, or if they now have had a change of heart and wish to drop all charges against you, it may not matter given the facts of your case.

Even without the cooperation of your spouse or partner, the prosecutor can can still move forward. If you made any statements to the police, those statements can be used against you in court to prove your guilt. In addition, there may have been witnesses to the alleged act of domestic violence. The prosecutor may decide that those witnesses are enough to prove the case. Finally, the prosecutor has the power to issue a warrant against your spouse/partner and force them to testify in court against their wishes. In short, if there is enough evidence to prove the charges, a case will be issued

It should be noted that once a case is issued, the DV Unit has a published “no-drop” policy. This means that they will proceed with the prosecution of your case wherever legally and ethically possible. In other words, once you’ve been arrested for domestic violence, it may already be too late to stop persecution, no matter what you spouse or partner says.

Can I Still Be Charged With Domestic Violence If I Was Simply Defending Myself?

In some domestic violence cases, the person arrested was simply trying to defend themselves against their partner’s aggression. The partner throws a slap or punch. You duck, they miss and you slap or punch in return, except that you connect. The police show up and you get arrested.

Under these circumstances, an overzealous prosecutor could still issue charges against you. However, that doesn’t mean that they would succeed against a self-defense claim. At trial, the prosecutor is going to have to disprove that you acted in self-defense. This means they will have to show that you intentionally injured or harassed your spouse or partner and that your spouse or partner was not the aggressor. If there’s the slightest evidence that establishes that your spouse or partner was the aggressor and that you met that aggressive force with an equal defending force, it is very likely that you will win.

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