I think we’ve all seen television shows or movies where a victim is asked, “Do you want to press charges?” For domestic violence cases in Oregon, it doesn’t matter whether the victim wants to press charges or not. Oregon law requires a police officer to make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe that an assault, strangulation, or menacing has occurred between household or family members (the relevant statute is ORS 133.055). For all you non-lawyers out there, the preceding sentence probably doesn’t really explain when the police are required to make an arrest. Let’s define some terms:
Probable Cause: means that there is a substantial objective basis for believing more likely than not that a crime has been committed and the person to be arrested has committed it;
Assault: intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing physical injury to another;
Physical Injury: impairment of physical condition or substantial pain;
Strangulation: impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by applying pressure to the nose and throat of another person; or blocking the nose or mouth of another person;
Menacing: intentionally attempting to place another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury;
Household or Family Members: spouses; former spouses; adult persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption; persons who are cohabitating or have cohabitated with each other; persons who have been in a sexually intimate relationship with each other within two years; and unmarried parents of a child.
What does this mean on the ground? If the police respond to your house and (1) a member of your family or household is hurt and (2) the police believe you did it – you are going to jail and a police report will be filed with the district attorney’s office. Once a suspect has been arrested, it is the policy of most district attorney’s offices in Oregon to file criminal charges in domestic violence cases regardless of the wishes of the victim. In other types of cases (i.e., thefts, bar fights, vandalism, etc.), it is common for prosecutors not to pursue criminal charges if the victim does not want to cooperate. Domestic violence cases are different – most prosecutors will pursue charges all the way to trial with or without the victim’s cooperation.
The state has a wide variety of tools to encourage victims to cooperate with a domestic violence prosecution including: (1) visits from law enforcement at home, school, and work; (2) jail time for failure to honor a subpoena; (3) criminal prosecution for filing a false police report; and (4) intervention from child protective services.
If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime, there is little to nothing the alleged victim can do to get the state to drop the charges. I am a Medford, Oregon domestic violence attorney who has defended hundreds of clients on domestic violence charges and obtained positive results for most of them.