Office Policies

Overriding Principles

As the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office, we strive: To protect the public, by delivering justice. Ultimately, that is the overriding principle that governs our decision-making. The legislative branch is responsible for writing law. Ultimately, the laws they write are our primary policy manual. If any specific policy provision below conflicts with our ability to achieve our aim within the parameters of law, then pursuit of our stated aim will take precedence over any specific policy provision below. These policies are to be viewed as principles to follow rather than as strict edicts.

Professionalism and Prosecutorial Ethics

All employees of this office hold a public trust and represent the Office of the District Attorney. You are expected to abide by the Yamhill County District Attorney Office's policies and principles. All employees are expected to exercise good judgment and common sense in their everyday dealings with the public, defense attorneys, representatives of other departments, other agencies and organizations, and each other.

All staff employed by this office are expected to maintain the highest ethical standards. This means that everyone is expected to be mindful that public service is a public trust and our job as public servants is to serve with integrity. We are all expected to do the right thing for the right reasons.

It is important to remember that, as a professional, your job does not end at the close of the workday. You are responsible for your behavior outside of the organization and need to be aware that public perception can be a powerful influence. We have a responsibility to perform our duties as public servants with integrity and to serve the public trust.

All employees will be familiar with the canons of professional ethics of the Oregon State Bar and perform their duties in a manner consistent with those standards. In addition, attorneys are expected to know and follow all rules promulgated by the Oregon Supreme Court and by the Circuit Court of Yamhill County or any other court that you may appear in.

Pursuing Just Outcomes

Justice Delayed

In order to maintain ordered liberty for a free society, it is essential that society have confidence in its laws to produce justice for aggrieved persons, i.e.: crime victims. Inefficiency and excessive delay in our system erodes confidence that our system can produce justice. It is a legal maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. Deputy District Attorneys have a duty to ensure that society, defendants, and specifically victims, receive justice in a timely fashion.

Charging Decisions

Charging decisions are to be made pursuant to the aim of protecting the public by delivering justice. Deciding if criminal charges should be filed and initiating the charging process is the responsibility of Deputy District Attorneys. Screening is the process by which a determination is made whether to initiate or pursue criminal charges. Deputy District Attorneys should use discretion in screening to eliminate cases in which prosecution is not justified. Deputy District Attorneys also have the responsibility to see that charges selected adequately describe the offense(s) committed and the charges provide for an adequate sentence for the offense(s). Deputy District Attorneys are not obligated to file all possible charges that the evidence might support. The prosecutor may properly exercise discretion to present only those charges which are consistent with the evidence and in the best interests of justice.

Ultimately the filed charges should reflect the conduct, adequately represent the victims, and provide a basis upon which accountability and justice can be obtained.

In some cases, justice will dictate an end decision to not file charges at all.

In making the charging decision, Deputy District Attorneys shall file only those charges which are reasonably substantiated by admissible evidence at trial. Deputy District Attorneys shall also avoid charging an excessive number of counts merely to provide leverage to persuade a defendant to enter a guilty plea to one or several charges.

Innocence and Evidence

All Deputy District Attorneys shall be alert for cases where the accused is innocent or proof falls below the beyond a reasonable doubt standard of the offense(s) charged. If such is discovered, the victim and police investigator will be contacted and then dismissal will be sought immediately.

Plea Offers

"Truth in Sentencing" is a fundamental value of this office, which includes attempting to ensure that the sentence ordered by the court is fundamentally served. Ultimately, negotiations should be made with an eye towards what we aim for: protecting the public by delivering justice. Plea offers are not mandatory to make in criminal cases. They are to be provided to defendants pursuant to promoting efficient yet just outcomes. Deputy District Attorneys will retain the discretion to negotiate dismissals, non-prosecution, and sentencing recommendations in all cases subject to the general standards for plea agreements.

The Yamhill County District Attorney's Office will conduct its plea negotiation efforts in a professional, nondiscriminatory and nonpartisan manner. In all plea negotiations this office shall be guided by the relevant constitutional, ethical and statutory considerations.

The following are some of the factors to take into consideration in deciding whether a plea or sentencing negotiation is warranted: nature of the offense; degree of offense charged; mitigating circumstances; age, background, and criminal record of the accused; age of the victim; undue hardship caused to the victim or the accused; victim input; relationship between the accused and the victim; sufficiency of admissible evidence to support a verdict; deterrent value of prosecution; feasibility of restitution being made; attitude and mental state of the accused at the present time; aid to other prosecution goals through non-prosecution; consequences to a defendant or victim; history of non-enforcement of the statute involved; age of the case; likelihood of prosecution in other jurisdictions. If the Deputy District Attorney is aware that a defendant is on probation or post-prison supervision, an effort should be made to get input from the supervising officer.

All plea offers should be done in a way that seeks to achieve justice considering the conduct and provable offenses.

Victim Input and Consultation

Victims are the only member of the criminal justice system that is involved with the criminal justice system involuntarily. This office will, at all times, seek to involve the victim as much, or as little, as they wish. Consistent with the Oregon Constitution and the philosophy of the Yamhill County District Attorney's office, the assigned Deputy District Attorney shall solicit input from the victim and consult with the victim during the plea negotiation process where required by law. In the exercise of the discretion to negotiate, the Deputy District Attorney in charge of the case should strongly consider the victim's wishes.

Crime Victim's Rights

The Yamhill County District Attorney's Office makes every effort to ensure crime victims play a meaningful role in the criminal and juvenile justice system. We treat them with dignity and respect. We make every effort to provide victims with as large a part as possible in each phase of a criminal case. Deputy District Attorneys shall familiarize themselves with the Crime Victims Bill of Rights as well as with Article 1, Section 42 of the Oregon Constitution, the Crime Victim's Rights Amendment. The interests of the victim should be kept in mind when setting the hearing date and during plea negotiations in any felony involving a person.

Victim Restitution

It is our policy to seek restitution equaling the amount of pecuniary loss for victims of all types of crimes. Seeking such restitution in no way supersedes or obviates any civil claims a victim might make against the defendant. Deputy District Attorneys should inform Victims' Assistance Office or advocates, of pending criminal cases. Victim Advocates shall supply victims with financial loss forms to facilitate restitution. Victim Assistance will then take responsibility tracking these forms, communicating with the victim(s) and Crime Victim Compensation. The financial loss documents will include monies paid or pending to be paid by victim insurance companies. After completion, the loss forms shall be provided to the defense, and put in the case file prior to the appropriate court date of case disposition. All efforts will be made to have the restitution amount available at sentencing.

During the sentencing hearing, Deputy District Attorneys should refer to the completed loss forms to request that restitution be made part of the sentence. Restitution should be ordered based on the loss to the victim, not the offender's ability to pay at the time of sentencing. In cases in which more than one defendant is held responsible for a criminal act, causing a pecuniary loss, this office views all defendants as being jointly and severally liable for paying restitution. As a result, Deputy District Attorneys should request that judges pronounce sentence in such a way that leaves all defendants jointly and severally liable for the victim's losses and equally responsible for the expenses incurred by all parties as a result of their criminal actions (ORS 147.005 -147.365). When restitution is legally unattainable as no pecuniary loss is provable, Deputy District Attorneys should consider alternative options such as compensatory fines or community service.

Homicide Cases

Prior to arriving at a homicide plea offer, the trial Deputy District Attorney should, in all but exceptional circumstances, inform and consult with the primary detectives and the family of the victim as to the appropriateness of the offer and any opinions or suggestions they may have.

Before any plea offer is extended in any homicide case, the case Deputy District Attorney must meet with the District Attorney. During this meeting the case Deputy District Attorney will present a factual summary of the case and review the mitigating and aggravating factors in the case, victim input, officer input, and the reasoning behind the suggested resolution.

Decision to Pursue Death Penalty

Although the 2019 SB 2013 significantly limited the potential of the death penalty, it still exists in Oregon law. All attorneys responsible for the prosecution of aggravated murder cases must consider the law and evidence of each case and decide whether seeking the death penalty would be a just outcome. The ultimate decision to pursue the death penalty though, will be at the sole discretion of the District Attorney, after consultation with the assigned Deputy District Attorney, involved officers and the victims.

Mandatory Sentence Cases

All plea offers on Measure 11 cases will be done after consultation with the District Attorney, or with the Chief Deputy District Attorney if the District Attorney is unavailable. These case reviews will examine the strength of the case, the victim's concerns and opinions, any mitigating factors, and any aggravating factors.

Fines, Fees and Taxpayer Reimbursement

In some instances, justice is best achieved by recommending that a defendant pay fines or fees. Deputy District Attorneys may recommend payment of fines and fees in those instances where doing so will serve to protect the public and deliver justice.

Dignity increases whenever a defendant pays back to society what resources he or she has taken from society. The imposition of fines and fees help to achieve this goal. The issue of repayment of court appointed attorney fees is a matter for the court. In most instances this office should not take a position on that issue. Should the Deputy District Attorney be aware of a defendant's ability to pay, and that ability is being misrepresented at the time of sentencing, the Deputy District Attorney should provide the accurate information to the court without taking a position on whether repayment should be ordered or not.

Truth in Sentencing

"Truth in Sentencing" is a fundamental value of this office, which includes attempting to ensure that the sentence ordered by the court is fundamentally served.

Sentence Reduction Provisions

District Attorneys are careful to advocate that sentence provisions which reduce the initial sentence declared by the judge are only given after all required legal findings are made. (i.e.: ORS 137.751 for AIPs.)

Civil Compromise

Civil compromises are available under Oregon law (ORS 135.703 and ORS 135.705) in instances in which a defendant is charged with a crime punishable as a misdemeanor. The injured party may seek to handle the matter as a civil proceeding. The Court, on payment of costs and expenses incurred, may order the complaint dismissed. As a policy principle, we generally disfavor civil compromises. Civil compromises, if used frequently, tend to favor affluent criminals and provide them with more lenient treatment within the criminal justice system. Treating an accused more leniently because of their affluence is inappropriate. In the interest of justice and in the interest of protecting community safety, this office believes that criminal acts should be handled in criminal court.

The Oregon State Bar has ruled that it is unethical under certain circumstances for a prosecuting attorney to advise an injured party against opting for a civil compromise of a criminal case. Providing information to a victim on the results of a civil compromise is appropriate. Advising or suggesting the victim's position on a proposed civil compromise offer is not appropriate and should not be done.

Conditional Discharge - First Time Possession Drug Offenses

For the first time user amount drug offenses, defendants are generally offered a conditional discharge opportunity that requires them to complete an appropriate treatment program. It would also be acceptable to offer a conditional discharge where an individual has a very limited criminal record, or a dated record, and without prior treatment. However, a conditional discharge offer is not appropriate where a person has a prior felony or has previously been ordered to do treatment. There may be unusual cases (i.e. residue, proof issues, or other compelling reasons) where a conditional discharge may also be considered. Conditional discharges are strict compliance agreements.

Drug Court

Adult Drug Court is an intensive four-phase program designed to assist drug addicted individuals to overcome their addictions. Drug courts require resources from several agencies and are expensive to maintain. Deputy District Attorneys have a duty to ensure the careful use of this resource. In accordance with best practice standards of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the Drug Court should be reserved for offenders in need of a full range of interventions offered by the Drug Court. It is for high risk, high need offenders. A high-risk high need offender is addicted to or dependent on illicit drugs and is at high risk to continue their drug use in less intensively supervised treatment programs. High-risk also includes individuals likely to commit new crimes if not treated.

The Deputy District Attorney Assigned to the Drug Court team works to ensure that Drug Court is occupied by individuals who are serious about overcoming their addiction. The Drug Court Deputy also works to ensure that participants who continue to victimize society are terminated from the program.

Proposal: Fast Track Disposition Program

Oregon law allows early disposition for first-time offenders who are charged with nonperson offenses. The legislature has termed this Fast Track Disposition. The goal of this program is to save indigent defense costs; hold offenders accountable for their actions; ensure prompt resolution of criminal matters; protect the rights of the public and the offender; get the most out of community resources to provide alternative sanctions to criminal behavior; and reduce the costs of the criminal justice system.

In carrying out Fast-Track Disposition, the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office shall identify, at intake, crimes eligible for violation treatment. At the defendant's first appearance, the defendant should be advised that she or he is eligible for the program and informed of the offer to treat the case as a violation. A fine will be recommended and may be required to be stipulated to by the defendant. If the defendant refuses the plea offer, the offer immediately expires. The plea offer shall not be renewed in ensuing proceedings.

Pre-Arrest Diversion Programs

Law enforcement agencies retain discretion to present or not present most all misdemeanor cases to our office for prosecution. Whenever a municipality or other jurisdiction has a pre-arrest diversion program for misdemeanants, the respective law enforcement agencies implementing such programs should do so in consultation with the District Attorney. Any program established should ensure that delay in prosecution for failed diversions does not negatively impact public safety and the pursuit of justice.

Pre-trial release

The following provisions directly govern Oregon's scheme for pre-trial release:

  • Article I, § 14 of the Oregon Constitution
  • Article I, § 43 of the Oregon Constitution
  • ORS 135.230 - ORS 135.290.

All Deputy District Attorneys are expected to be familiar with these laws and to advocate for implementation of their provisions.

Discovery

The discovery obligations of the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office are generally established by ORS 135.805 - 135.825; ORS 135.845 - 135.855; Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972) and Rule 3.8 of the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct. In order to meet discovery obligations in each case, prosecutors must be familiar with these authorities and with the judicial interpretations that discuss or address the application of these authorities to particular facts. In addition, it is important for prosecutors to thoroughly consider how to meet their discovery obligations in each case and consult with their supervisors for guidance whenever appropriate.

It is the practice of this office to disclose appropriate police reports and other discoverable materials to defense counsel at the earliest opportunity once a case is filed. In certain types of cases, sex offenses and cases involving domestic violence, discovery will be provided as soon as possible after arraignment on indictment.

Our office has an open file policy. All discovery contained in our criminal files are open and available at the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office for defendants and their attorneys to come and look at, by appointment, free of cost. Copies of discovery materials are also made available to defendants and their attorneys once payment for the same has been made in full. Fees for discovery copies are set by the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office and approved by the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners.

All written agreements entered between Yamhill County law enforcement agencies that relate to data retention and data sharing will be open and available to inspection by the public.

Record Retention

All district attorney office records must be maintained in compliance with the Records Retention and Destruction Schedule published by the Secretary of State or by State law.

Transparency and Confidentiality

This office is committed to transparency to the public it serves. Public records requests made to the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office will be processed in a timely and fiscally reasonable manner. If a law or court order requires that information possessed by this office be kept confidential, then the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office will ensure that such laws or orders are complied with (e.g. Juvenile files, victim information, medical files, personnel files or matters, etc.).

The Use of Certified Law Students

Internships in our office can provide educational opportunities for future attorneys and others. Internships also expose interns to the efforts we take to protect the public and deliver justice. In return, the district attorney's office receives legal assistance at a reduced cost to taxpayers. To ensure proper supervision and successful internships, all legal interns will be supervised by a full time Deputy District Attorney. All support staff interns will be overseen by support staff supervisors.

Affidavits of Prejudice Against A Judge

When a Deputy District Attorney believes that a sitting judge's prejudice against the state is such that in their estimation they should seek to disqualify a judge from hearing a case or cases, then that Deputy shall provide their reasons for their position to the District Attorney. Affidavits of prejudice, motions to excuse, or requests for a judge to recuse himself or herself can be filed only with the written approval of the District Attorney. Affidavits of prejudice are filed by the District Attorney with the presiding Circuit Court judge. A copy is provided to the judge who is the subject of the affidavit.

Prohibition of Profiling Policy and Complaint

  1. No person shall be targeted by any member of this office (attorney or non-attorney) on the suspicion of the individual's having violated a provision of law, based solely on the individual's real or perceived age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, homelessness or disability, unless the attorney (or non-attorney) is acting on a suspect description or information related to an identified or suspected violation of a provision of law.
  2. If a member of the public believes that they have been subjected to profiling by any person affiliated with the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office, the member of the public may file a complaint with the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office via the following methods:
    1. In person by visiting the main office, 535 NE Fifth Street, McMinnville, Oregon 97128
    2. In writing, signed by the complainant, and delivered by hand, postal mail, facsimile 503-434-5760, email the District Attorney
    3. By telephone 503-434-7539. Telephonic reports may be made anonymously or through a third party.
  3. Every profiling complaint received will be copied and submitted to the Law Enforcement Contacts Policy Data Review Committee at:

    Law Enforcement Contacts Policy and Data Review Committee
    ATTN: CCJ-JUST
    P.O. Box 751
    Portland, OR 97204

    Email the Law Enforcement Contacts Policy and Data Review Committee
  4. 4. Upon receipt of a complaint alleging profiling, a designated member of the District Attorney's management team shall conduct a thorough investigation of the complaint. The aforementioned investigation will be conducted within 60 days of the filing of the complaint. At the conclusion of the investigation, the report containing findings regarding the complaint, along with any recommended actions, will be forwarded to the District Attorney. Copies of the report will be forwarded to the Law Enforcement Contacts Policy Data Review Committee and to the original complainant (unless the complaint was made anonymously).
    ORS 131.920, 131.925

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