Criminal Case Process
A Crime is Reported
The police investigate cases and forward their reports to the Klamath County District Attorney’s Office. A Deputy District Attorney reviews the reports and decides whether there is sufficient evidence to charge an individual with a crime. The District Attorney's Office does not investigate cases. If you believe that a crime has been committed, please contact your Sheriff's Office or local police agency to report the crime.
If a person is arrested for committing a crime in Klamath County, they are taken to the Klamath County Jail. When a defendant is released from jail and there are pending criminal charges, the defendant must sign a release agreement that contains conditions they must abide by or they can be arrested and returned to custody. The release agreement is in effect until the court case is concluded. Information about a defendant's custody status is available through the Klamath County Web Jail Viewer.
In some instances, a police officer has the authority to issue a citation instead of taking the person into custody. In such cases, the person will remain out of custody and be given a date to appear in court.
Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes
A felony crime is one that is designated a felony by law or a crime that allows a defendant to be sentenced to a term in prison of more than one year. A misdemeanor crime is one that is designated a misdemeanor by law or a crime that allows a defendant to be sentenced to no more than one year in custody.
Criminal Charges are Filed
A criminal case begins when the District Attorney's Office, on behalf of the State of Oregon, files a charging document against a defendant.
The first court appearance is an arraignment. At the arraignment, the defendant is formally advised of the criminal charges filed and will usually receive his or her future court dates on a case. In a limited number of cases, defendants can plead guilty and resolve their case at arraignment. Unless a defendant declines an attorney's representation, the court will appoint an attorney for the defendant, if financially eligible, or allow the defendant an opportunity to consult with an attorney. Arraignments are held at the courthouse.
Prior to Trial
If a defendant is charged with a felony crime, the State must present sufficient evidence to show the crimes have been committed by the defendant. This presentation of evidence will occur at either a preliminary hearing or in front of a grand jury If there is sufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges, the case is scheduled for a trial. If a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor crime, there is no preliminary hearing or grand jury.
Deputy District Attorneys make an offer to the defense to resolve the case. The defendant can accept the offer and plead guilty or reject the offer and the case will go to trial. Approximately 95% of all cases filed by the District Attorney's Office are resolved through negotiations. If a defendant pleads guilty before trial, the defendant will be sentenced and the case is resolved.
If a case is not resolved through negotiations, it will proceed to trial. The Deputy District Attorney will send out subpoenas to witnesses. A subpoena is a command to the witness that he or she is required to appear and testify at trial. A defendant has the same authority to issue subpoenas to witnesses, but the defendant is not required to present any evidence. Only the State is responsible for proving that the defendant committed a crime.
The defendant has the right to a jury trial, but may waive that right and have the trial heard by a judge instead. At the end of the trial, the jury or the judge will issue a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If the defendant is found guilty, he or she will be sentenced. If the defendant is found not guilty, the case is finished and the defendant has not been convicted. In some instances, a defendant may be found guilty of some crime and not guilty of other crimes.
Sentencing occurs after the defendant is convicted of a crime at trial or enters a guilty or no contest plea. The sentence is the punishment imposed on the defendant and is determined by the judge within the boundaries set by Oregon law. A defendant's sentence depends on the type of crime committed and the defendant's criminal history, amongst other factors unique to each defendant. A defendant can be sentenced to any combination of: serving time in custody at the Klamath County Jail or in prison, being supervised for a period of probation by the Court or Klamath County Community Corrections, undergo treatment and counseling, complete community service, pay restitution and/or pay fines and fees.
After sentencing, a defendant may appeal the conviction and sentence. Appeals are heard by the Oregon Court of Appeals. The time it takes to decide an appeal varies greatly, depending on the number of issues raised and the complexity of the case. In some cases, the appeal may continue on to the Oregon Supreme Court. In death penalty cases, the appeal goes directly to the Oregon Supreme Court.