The district attorney can prosecute the driving under the influence of intoxicants cases that occur in the city of Astoria.

That much is clear.

The rest, however, is being interpreted differently by District Attorney Josh Marquis and City Attorney Blair Henningsgaard, in the decision Judge Albin Norblad handed down Thursday morning after a lengthy battle for control over DUIIs.

“The request is to declare the district attorney, as opposed to the city attorney, the appropriate person to prosecute DUII cases within the limits of the city,” Marion County Judge Norblad states in his decision.

“It is this court’s opinion the district attorney controls and directs prosecutions of DUIIs in all the courts in his county, and in this case, the city of Astoria. This would include all DUIIs filed under state statute or city ordinance. Further it is this court’s opinion that the district attorney under ORS 221.339(5) can allow the prosecutions be handled by the city attorney.”

ORS 221.339(5) states the city attorney is given the authority to prosecute DUIIs filed both under that state statute and municipal ordinance.

“Needless to say, I am very pleased,” said District Attorney Marquis. “The ruling is unambiguous. It says the district attorney has the right to control driving under the influence of intoxicants cases. Period.

“I really hope the city of Astoria will now work with me on this and not generate any further legal costs on either side. I hope we can put our differences aside. The Astoria Police Department is an excellent police department and they do excellent work. We work with them all the time so there should be no reason that we can’t get these cases prosecuted.”

City Attorney Blair Henningsgaard says his interpretation of the decision is that the judge is not giving the city exclusive rights to the DUIIs that occur within the city limits, but not giving District Attorney Marquis the authority to take cases to Clatsop County Circuit Court either.

“My interpretation of what the judge is telling us is that the district attorney is required to prosecute DUII cases in municipal court,” he said. “It’s saying that the duty to prosecute those cases is now the DA’s.”

Marquis said he isn’t sure Henningsgaard’s interpretation is correct, but if that is the case, Marquis would still have control of the cases. Marquis said he would then just dismiss the cases from municipal court and refile them in circuit court so that they are done in a court of record.

The city’s police policy isn’t changed by the decision, Henningsgaard said. And the right to prosecute DUII cases in Astoria Municipal Court has not been revoked either.

Norblad writes that the relevant statute to the case is ORS 8.660, which says, “The district attorney shall attend the terms of all courts having jurisdiction of public offenses within the district attorney’s county, and except as otherwise provided in this section, conduct on behalf of the state, all prosecutions for such offense therein.”

“Do I consider this a victory for the city of Astoria? Yeah, I think it’s significant,” Henningsgaard said. “It upholds what the city of Astoria was saying, we can have a municipal court and can prosecute the cases in municipal court. From that standpoint, it’s certainly a victory for the city. It’s more than we anticipated.

“But I don’t necessarily agree with the judge’s decision. It is my belief that there are two court systems, municipal court and the state court system. But he’s saying they are one system in his decision. But this could have statewide implications, and it’s obviously not something that’s been done in the past. But we’ll just have to see if the DA stands up and does his duty.”

Both parties agree the new arrangement will save the city of Astoria a significant amount of money.

“How much, I really don’t know,” Marquis said.

The attorney costs requested from both sides were denied.


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