Criminal Justice System

Court system structure

A number of different court systems operate side-by-side in Oregon. Each has different structures and different purposes. By far the largest judicial system in the state is the state court system, which enforces state criminal and civil laws passed by the state legislature in Salem. This state system is the one that citizens are most likely to encounter. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office primarily handles cases that are heard in the state court system. These include felonies, in which the accused may be sentenced to a year or more in custody, misdemeanors, where the maximum sentence is less than a year, and violations, with involve a sentence of a fine only.  Virtually all of these types of state law violations that occur in Multnomah County are heard in the state Circuit Courts located in Multnomah County and are prosecuted by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

In addition to state courts are the federal courts which have jurisdiction over all federal laws. The federal District Court and a branch of the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals are located in Portland. Additionally, tribal court systems exist in certain areas of the state and have jurisdiction over certain members of Native American tribes in some instances. Although the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office works closely with all law enforcement agencies, our attorneys do not prosecute federal or tribal cases, except on special assignments.

Finally, many Oregon cities have municipal courts which enforce ordinances passed by city government, generally involving minor offenses. Portland has no municipal court, but violations of city ordinances passed by City Council are handled in the state court system. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office handles these Portland city ordinance prosecutions. Both the cities of Troutdale and Fairview have municipal courts whose cases are prosecuted by the city attorneys of those municipalities and not by the District Attorney’s Office.