Cases are classified as 'Domestic Violence' based upon the relationship between the people involved. Although the definition of 'Domestic' under Oregon law can be expansive, Washington County tends to apply the 'intimate partner' definition. This basically means that the Washington County District Attorney's Office will ask for the 'Domestic Violence' classification if the relationship between the 'defendant' and alleged 'victim' was husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend. This classification changes the scheduling of court appearances and the likely consequences if a person is found to be guilty. If the judge at arraignment mentioned that at your 'DVDS' hearing the 'deferred sentencing counsel' will be present. The judge was referencing our office.
What happens at the DVDS hearing?
The judge will want to know how you wish to respond to the allegations the procecutor has filed against you. There will be three basic options. First, you can set the case for trial. Second, you can enter the program called 'Domestic Violence Deferred Sentencing Program' (DVDS). Third, you can ask the judge for more time to decide.
Trial Option: Many different criminal allegations are assigned to the 'domestic violence' category. Typical charges are Assault, Strangulation, Harassment, Menacing, Interference with Making a Report, Criminal Mischief, and Trespass. We will need to explain to you the definitions of the charges you are personally dealing with and analyze the evidence to determine what can, or can't, be proven. Often in these cases, there will be 'affirmative defenses.' These are situations where a person does something that would normally be a crime, but under the circumstances it was lawful - a typical example would be to assert that a person was acting in self defense. When these cases are set for trial, the trial is normally set about four weeks after the DVDS hearing for misdemeanor charges and about six weeks after the DVDS hearing for felony charges. If you chose to have a trial, you will no longer have the DVDS option. Those cases that are set for trial will also have the normal plea negotiation phase of a criminal case before the trial (the DVDS option occurs before plea bargaining).
DVDS Option: Essentially, DVDS (the Washington County Deferred Sentencing Program) is where you make a deal with the court. If you honor the terms of the deal, the court dismiss the criminal charges. This is a difficult agreement. This should not be entered into lightly. If you don't make it successfully through the deal, the court convicts you automatically and imposes a sentence. To help understand the requirements of DVDS, here is a copy of a 'To-Do' handout we give to our clients who enter this program:
Meet Jessica Moroni at the PO’s office (second floor of building at 1st and Main – 150 N. First Ave., Suite 200, MS 46, Hillsboro)
Remember the No Contact obligation. No face to face, no email, no phone calls, no text messages, no Facebook messages, no passing messages through someone else, etc. Having contact can get you arrested and convicted of the crime and also delays getting lawful contact restored. Talk with Ann about how to make arrangements for communication regarding money, kids and property.
Remember the No Alcohol or non-prescribed drugs obligation. Don’t buy any, don’t hold any for others, don’t go into bars or taverns unless the judge or Ann has told you it is okay.
Remember the No Firearms condition. Don’t touch any firearm. If you have any, talk with Ann about how you can have someone pick them up and hold them for you.
Call DV treatment providers to find the best one for you – see other side of this paper. Get started as soon as you can. Remember that if you or your partner (girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, husband) has one or more child, you need to do parenting classes. Ask the DV providers if they can provide this.
If Jessica tells you to do an alcohol or drug assessment, call the providers to find one for you – see the other side of this paper. Get started as soon as you can.
When asked, you need to submit to drug testing.
Find out from Jessica when you should schedule the polygraph examination. Then call providers of the examination and schedule the examination – see the other side of this paper.
Start saving money to pay $600 directly to the probation office (second floor of building at 1st and Main – 150 N. First Ave., Suite 200, MS 46, Hillsboro) (Jessica’s office).
If you obtained a court appointed attorney, start saving money to pay the fee the judge imposed directly to the court (first floor of building at 1st and Main – 150 N. First Ave.). If you pay in person, you can get a receipt. Get a receipt and make sure the case number on the receipt is the case number for this case.
If you talk with any police, tell Jessica right away - 503-846-8158 - Jessica_Moroni@co.Washington.or.us.
If you need to leave the State of Oregon for any time (even only for a few minutes), tell Jessica - 503-846-8158 - Jessica_Moroni@co.washington.or.us.
If you received a restitution request, review it and decide if you agree or want to contest it. If you want to contest it, contact your attorney (if any) or tell Jessica you wish to ask for a court appearance to discuss restitution. If the form tells you to contact a person if you object to the restitution amount, follow the instruction. If, once the issue is resolved, the judge orders you to pay restitution, pay the money to the court directly – remember to write your case number on any payments and ask for a receipt. Do not pay the person asking for restitution the money directly – you might not get credit for any such payments – so, only pay restitution through the court - (first floor of building at 1st and Main – 150 N. First Ave.).
As you can see, the obligations in the DVDS program are extensive. However, sometimes it is the best option. A way of thinking about the options is that for most people most of the time, the best option is to go to trial and to be found not-guilty. A Not-Guilty ends all of the court's involvement allowing you and your family to make your own decision about the future free from governmental mandates. However, for most people most of the time, going to trial and being found guilty is the worst option. Generally, if a person is convicted of a crime with the domestic violence classification in Washington County, the sentencing judge will require that person to do all of the requirements of the DVDS program anyway - just the costs will be slightly greater and the person will now be convicted of the crime (of course, if a person is convicted the judge has to determine whether to impose jail and if so how much jail to impose - no jail is imposed in the DVDS program unless a is person is believed to have violated the terms of the program).
Asking for More Time Option: The court is not required to honor these requests. However, we almost always are granted these requests. Usually, the court will allow an additional week to consider the options. When a person asks for more time, both the Trial Option and the Diversion Option are preserved until the next court appearance.
A special notice regarding DVDS if you are not a citizen of the US: To enter the DVDS program, the court requires you to offer a plea of guilty to the lead charge. Although the case will be dismissed upon completion of the agreement and thus you are never convicted pursuant to Oregon law, the United States government (they handle immigration law) views entry into the DVDS program, even if you graduate and obtain dismissal of the case pursuant to Oregon law, as the equivalent to being convicted because you had to offer the plea of guilty to enter the program. In other words, even if you graduate from the DVDS Program and the Court dismisses your case, you can still be deported. Many people who enter the DVDS program are accused of a crime of violence because the crime alleged involves the use of force against another person or the threat to use force against another person. This classification is very bad for your immigration status and options. Additionally, under some circumstances, these crimes can be classified as crimes of moral turpitude or as an ‘aggravated felony’ (even when the charge is a misdemeanor pursuant to Oregon law). All three of these categories, Violent Crime, Moral Turpitude and Aggravated Felony are independent reasons to deny renewal of your status, deny citizenship, deny re-entry into the country and to initiate immediate deportation – even for those who have already obtained lawful permanent resident status.
What is the typical length of time before the court allows contact? The answers to follow are the typical results - many cases differ depending on the circumstances of the individual case.
- Normally in Washington County if you go to trial and are found not guilty all restriction on contact between the 'defendant' and the alleged 'victim' end - an exception is if there is an additional restraining order that has been approved by the court. If there were contact restrictions imposed on children, these would also go away if you are found not guilty - with the same possible exception if there is a restraining order in addition to the criminal case.
- Normally in Washington County if you are convicted, the court continues the no contact restriction between the 'defendant' and the alleged 'victim' until the probation office authorizes contact. The Washington County Probation Office usually doesn't allow contact until you have finished the first 12 sessions of the domestic violence batterers intervention class (this takes 12 weeks of classes) and passed a compliance polygraph test. So, in short the normal waiting time to restore contact with the 'victim' is 3 months. If there was a child that is subject to this restriction the probation office usually waits to restore contact between the 'defendant' and the child until the person has finished 3 parenting classes (usually 3 weeks). Therefore, the normal treatment for those who are convicted is 3 months before contact is restored between the 'defendant' and the 'victim' and 3 weeks before contact is restored between the 'defendant' and the child.
- If you enter the DVDS program, they impose the same contact restrictions as if you were convicted. The only difference is that you would typically start the classes a month to a month and a half sooner and therefore are at the stage to restore contact that much sooner.
How do I communicate with my alleged 'victim' about money, property and kids while awaiting restoration of contact? The answer depends on where your case is procedurally. If you are in the DVDS program, either the judge or Emily makes the decision. If your case is awaiting trial, the decision is made by the judge; although often the release office can help.
Where can I find providers for Domestic Violence Classes? Here is a Link This is a list of providers in each county in Oregon. Once you find a provider, make sure you notify the probation office (Jessica) and receive conformation that they will accept that provider.
We represent people deciding whether to enter the DVDS program and we represent people who are accused of violating the DVDS program. We are here to help; but, for us to help you, we need you to contact us. Call us at (503) 693-7505 and ask to schedule a consultation.