Multnomah County
District Attorney

1200 SW 1st Avenue, Suite 5200
Portland, OR 97204

Multnomah County District Attorney

1200 SW 1st Avenue, Suite 5200
| Portland, OR 97204
| 503-988-3162

HOT TOPIC – Material Witnesses

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office Material Witness policy is reproduced below.  The policy is designed to ensure that the practice of requesting that the court issue a warrant is used sparingly and with great oversight.  Material witness warrants are relatively rare in Multnomah County.

3.55  Material Witness Warrant Policy

ORS 136.608 – 136.614 authorize the arrest and detention of certain witnesses when necessary to secure their testimony at trial. This office recognizes the substantial burden this practice can place on people who are not themselves charged with a crime, and it is our policy that material witness warrants shall be used sparingly. Any DDA who wants to ask the court to issue a material witness warrant must first obtain the approval of a Chief Deputy or the First Assistant. In considering such a request the following factors shall be weighed:

  • the severity of the involved charges,
  • the importance of the witness to the prosecution of the case,
  • the personal circumstances of the witness, and
  • the risk to public safety if the case cannot proceed due to the absence of the witness.

Whenever a material witness warrant is issued at this office’s request, the case DDA will closely monitor the case and ensure that he or she is notified by law enforcement when the witness is arrested. Upon the arrest of a witness, the case DDA will promptly brief the Senior Deputy of the Pre-Trial unit on the circumstances of the case in advance of the witness’ initial appearance in JC 3, which will be the next court day after the witness’ arrest.

At the witness’ appearance in JC 3, the JC 3 DDA will request that counsel be appointed for the witness and that a status hearing be set on the felony call docket within a week. We will also request that Close Street Supervision Evaluation Only be ordered to determine if the witness may be supervised out of custody pending the hearing at which the witness’ testimony is requested. At the status hearing on the felony call docket, we will request that the court set further regular status hearings to review the custody status of any witness who is not appropriate for release on supervision.

If a material witness is held in custody longer than 10 days, the case DDA will send an e-mail to the Chief DDA of the division, the First Assistant, and the District Attorney weekly with an update regarding the status of the case.