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General Information for People Charged with Crimes


When someone is charged with a crime and at risk of jail time, that person has several rights in the criminal justice system. The Oregon Public Defense Commission (OPDC) has provided the following summary of the rights a defendant has in the system for the purposes of legal education only. OPDC cannot give legal advice and all situations are different. If you have questions, please contact an attorney.

Right to Counsel

You have the right to have an attorney represent you. If you can't afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint a lawyer to represent you. To qualify for appointed counsel, you may need to complete a financial affidavit. BE HONEST AND COMPLETE WHEN YOU FILL OUT THE FINANCIAL AFFIDAVIT. You will be signing "under penalty of perjury," which means it is a crime to lie.

Stages of a Criminal Case

These stages vary case by case and county by county, this is a general list to give you an idea of the criminal process

  1. Fill out the financial affidavit
  2. Initial appearance and Arraignment
  3. Meeting with Attorney / Discovery Review / Case Planning / Investigation
  4. Settlement Negotiations
  5. Case Resolution / Trial / Sentencing
  6. Post Resolution Issues

Information for Unrepresented Individuals

Who is my lawyer?
You do not have a lawyer. You'll get a public defender, but you have to wait until one is available. Your paperwork says the Oregon Public Defense Commission (OPDC), the agency in Oregon responsible for public defense, so that OPDC staff know you need a lawyer and do not have one. OPDC is not your lawyer and cannot give you legal advice.

Why don’t I have a lawyer yet?
Oregon doesn't have enough public defenders for everyone who needs them. Today, there's no one available to be your lawyer, but this can change every day. You'll get a lawyer as soon as one is available.

How do I get a lawyer if I can’t afford to hire one?
When you went to court, they added you to the list of people who need a lawyer. To stay on the list, come to all your court dates. Keep your contact information updated with the court or pre-trial supervision agency so they can find you when a lawyer is available. OPDC is working with the court to find a lawyer for you. Your lawyer will contact you when they have been assigned.

Do I Still Need to Go to Court?
Yes. If you miss a court date, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. A warrant can delay finding a lawyer for you.

Do I Still Need to Follow the Court’s Orders?
Yes. Violating court orders can lead to your arrest. The judge might have made conditions for you to stay out of jail. These can include people you can’t contact and places you can’t go. Violating these conditions can lead to your arrest and being held in jail.

Can I talk about my case with other people? 
Anyone other than your lawyer might have to talk in court later about things you tell them. What they remember could be used against you later. If the police want

What should I do with information I want to tell my lawyer?
Think about writing down details like where you were, who you were with, and what happened while it's still fresh in your mind. Make a list of important people and information for your case. Note your court dates, check-ins with pre-trial officers, and contact details for anyone you think may have information about your case. Your lawyer might find all of this helpful when they start working on your case.