Clatsop County DA wins battle over DUII case jurisdiction
by Thom Jensen KATU News and KATU.com staff Published: May 25, 2012 at 11:05 PM PDT Last Updated: May 28, 2012 at 2:10 PM PDT. Original story click here.
It's a ruling that could end what critics call a "good ol' boy" system of prosecuting drunken drivers along the Oregon Coast. Prosecutors in Clatsop County have been fighting the city of Astoria for jurisdiction over those cases.
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But will the order change the politics of prosecuting repeat offenders?
Ever since anyone in Astoria can remember, drunken driving cases inside the city limits have been handled by the city attorney.
But some say that has caused problems. One woman pointed to how her mom died of an overdose after her mother only received slaps on the wrist for multiple drunken driving arrests that were handled at Astoria’s municipal court. Other people pointed to a mayor who never did any jail time even after getting a third DUII.
Even after the judge said Astoria needs to handle these cases differently, the judicial turf war continues.
It's a subject that many Astorians are reluctant to talk about publicly, saying it's too political and they don't want to buck the system in the town with a population of only 10,000. Many, however, complained that they believed a "good old boy" system was in place at city court and connected people were getting off easy while others faced stiff punishments.
But for the past two years, District Attorney Josh Marquis has been bucking the system and fighting to take over all DUII cases in Clatsop County. He took the city to court in April and now can claim victory.
"I'm hoping that we can work together on this and that this is over now," he said.
Marquis said he'll make certain everyone gets a fair shake if his office handles the cases.
"It will mean more accountability and more consistency, and whether you get arrested in Cannon Beach or Seaside or on the Megler Bridge, or the old Youngs Bay Bridge or in front of the courthouse, you will be treated the same," he said.
Astoria's mayor has repeatedly refused to talk to KATU News about his DUII's and whether Marquis or the city attorney should handle these cases.
City attorney Blair Henningsgaard was out of town and not available for comment Friday.
Marquis said he's hopeful Henningsgaard will respect the judge's ruling and turn over all drunken driving cases over to his office.
But Henningsgaard told The Daily Astorian he believes the judge's ruling still leaves the cases in the municipal court but with Marquis' office handling them. Marquis made it clear, since he has control of the cases now, he will move all cases to the state court where he is sure everyone will be treated equally.