Arraignment in Oregon

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In Oregon, like other states, there are laws to make sure that people aren’t held in custody for long periods of time without oversight by the courts. Unless there is a justification for delay, officers there must bring people who have been arrested—and are still in custody—before a judge within 36 hours of arrest. (Holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays don’t count in this calculation.) The appearance must generally occur within 96 hours of arrest if the defendant is not in custody. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 135.010.)

(For more general information about arraignment and first court appearances, see Arraignment: Getting to Court.)

Arraignment

The 36-hour rule applies to the suspect’s first appearance in court, called an arraignment. If the charge is a felony, the appearance must be in person. If it’s a misdemeanor, a lawyer may appear on the defendant’s behalf. Courts can also require that defendants appear by video conference. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 135.020.)

At arraignment, the court must read the charging document, make sure the defendant gets a copy of it, and take his or her plea. (See How should I plead at arraignment?) Prior to conducting arraignment, the court must determine whether any defendant who doesn’t have an attorney wants one. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 135.020, 135.040.)

Release from Custody

The authorities must release in-custody suspects who haven’t been arraigned within 36 hours. In this circumstance, if no charging document has been filed, the court can’t require the suspect to sign a release agreement that requires him or her to appear at a later date for arraignment. (State v. Clay, 84 Or. App. 514 (1987).)

Evidence Suppressed?

If the authorities obtain incriminating evidence while the suspect has been in custody more than 36 hours without arraignment, the evidence may or may not be admissible at a later trial.

In one case, an Oregon appellate court allowed a defendant’s confession to stand even though law enforcement obtained it after he had been in custody without arraignment for more than 36 hours. (State v. Jenks, 43 Or. App. 221 (1979).) The court found that the defendant gave his confession voluntarily despite the fact he hadn’t been arraigned on time.

In another case, the Oregon Supreme Court deemed a confession, made to a psychiatrist with two detectives in the room, inadmissible. (State v. Mendacino, 288 Or. 231 (1979).) Detectives had interrogated the defendant twice after he asked for a lawyer (see Police Questioning After the Suspect Claims Miranda), and he gave two confessions. The detectives later took him to a psychiatrist rather than ensure that he was arraigned within 36 hours. The defendant confessed a third time. The court noted that the first two confessions were inadmissible because of violation of the right to counsel, and it considered the delay in arraignment in holding the third inadmissible.

Consult a Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney in your area as soon as possible. Practices and procedures can vary widely even within states. An experienced lawyer can:

  • fully advise you of the applicable law
  • assist in trying to get you out of jail
  • guide you through the court process, and
  • advise you regarding charges, penalties, and any potential defenses.

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