As a DUII lawyer practicing for over 30 years in Multnomah and Clackamas County, I have had the opportunity to appear in all of the local Municipal courts. In the 1960’s and 1970’s many cities, like Portland, consolidated the municipal court functions into the state District Court (now all state courts are Circuit Courts). Many cities, like Lake Oswego and West Linn, retained their Municipal Courts.
A Municipal Court prosecutes cases involving violations of state law or local ordinances that occur within the boundaries of the municipality. These courts handle misdemeanor cases and traffic violations only.
Lake Oswego, West Linn and Troutdale are all long tenured Municipal Courts. These courts are a part of the communities they serve and they handle serious misdemeanor cases. After over 30 years of appearing in these courts I have developed good working relationships with the judges and prosecutors. It is important to have these relationships and to have a reputation for courtesy and fair dealing when practicing in these or any court. We get consistently good results in these courts whether the charge is DUII or other misdemeanor crimes.
Clackamas County started its own Justice Court several years ago. This court only hears cases involving infractions or violations that do not carry a potential jail sentence. The purpose of this court is purely revenue driven. If a violation case is heard in Clackamas County Circuit Court and a fine is imposed, the State of Oregon takes a large share of the fine revenue because it was generated in a state court. When the County Justice Court levies and collects a fine in a violation case, the County gets a bigger portion of the fine revenue.
This leads to an odd twist in cases involving traffic crimes like DUII or Reckless Driving. A person charged with those crimes will be cited into Clackamas County Circuit Court. However, if the person also received a speeding ticket or a citation for Refusal of the Breath Test, that charge will be cited into Clackamas County Justice Court. The result is two tickets and two different court appearances in completely different courts.
Many of our clients are frustrated by this. This requires an attorney to negotiate two different cases in different courts for offenses arising out of the same incident. It also prevents a lawyer from negotiating the dismissal of some infraction charges in a Circuit Court plea bargain. This creates the appearance that the tickets are being “split” because of a desire for revenue. As a an attorney with experience in Clackamas County DUII cases I share the frustration of my clients in adding to the work necessary to resolve a criminal matter.
By James F. O’Rourke Jr.
Source: JFO Rourke Blog
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