Taking Misdemeanor Charges Lightly Can Lead to Heavy Penalties
People sometimes think of misdemeanor charges as “minor” offenses, but the reality is that a Colorado misdemeanor conviction can have significant long-term consequences. If an El Paso County jury or judge finds you guilty of a misdemeanor, you could spend months behind bars, pay thousands in fines and restitution, and carry the burden of a criminal record. This record can significantly impact your employment and educational opportunities and leave a stain on your reputation for years or decades to come.
That’s why you should not treat the situation lightly or as no big deal if prosecutors present you with misdemeanor charges. The Colorado criminal justice system moves swiftly, and it is the job of prosecutors to convict you, no matter what kind of crime they alleged you committed. Without a Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer on your side who can protect your rights and develop an effective defense strategy, you could find yourself steamrolled by the process and convicted before you know it.
What Are Misdemeanors Charges in Colorado?
Colorado has two broad categories of criminal offenses: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are more “serious” crimes because they usually involve harsher penalties than misdemeanors. Incarceration for a felony will be in a Colorado state prison, while a misdemeanor conviction could lead to time spent in El Paso County Jail.
Colorado law divides misdemeanors into three classes, with Class One misdemeanors being the most serious:
- Class One Misdemeanors. Class One misdemeanors are punishable by six to 18 months in county jail, a fine of $500 to $5,000, or both.
- Class Two Misdemeanors. A conviction for a class two misdemeanor can lead to jail time of three to 12 months, fines between $250 and $1,000, or both.
- Class Three Misdemeanors. Class Three misdemeanors can result in up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $750, or both.
What Will Happen After Police Arrest Me For a Misdemeanor?
One of two things will happen after a police officer arrests you for a Colorado misdemeanor. The officer will give you a summons and complaint ordering you to appear in court several weeks later, or they will take you to the local jail, where you will stay until your next court date unless you can post the designated bond amount.
Why Shouldn’t I Just Plead Guilty And Get It Over With?
Understandably, you want to get your ordeal with Colorado’s criminal justice system over with as quickly as possible with the lightest consequences possible. As such, there may be the temptation to enter into an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to your misdemeanor charges rather than contacting and hiring a criminal defense attorney. Doing so may seem like the path of least resistance. You’ll avoid spending money on attorney’s fees, get a lighter sentence, and can start to put the whole affair behind you.
However, an ill-advised and hasty plea bargain does not put the matter behind you and is anything but easy. When you plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, you are telling the world that you did, in fact, commit a crime.
Even if your plea doesn’t involve jail time, you may receive probation, have to put in hours of community service and pay restitution. A misdemeanor conviction arising from a plea agreement may also follow you for the rest of your life. Employers that conduct criminal background checks may see your conviction on a background search and may not hire you as a result.
Can a Colorado Misdemeanor Conviction Be Expunged or Sealed?
While expungement is not an option for adult misdemeanor convictions in Colorado, you may be able to petition the El Paso County court to seal your record after you have served your sentence. Once sealed, the conviction no longer appears on publicly available records, such as those used by employers and landlords when doing background checks.
However, some misdemeanors are not eligible for sealing. These include:
- Class One misdemeanor traffic offenses
- Class Two misdemeanor traffic offenses
- Class A traffic infractions
- Class B traffic infractions
- Crimes involving a commercial driver’s license
- Crimes involving domestic violence
If you are convicted of any of the above criminal misdemeanors, your criminal record will reflect the conviction and affect the rest of your life.
Don’t Face Misdemeanor Charges Alone
The biggest mistake you can make when facing misdemeanor charges is treating them as minor offenses that will go away over time. There simply is no such thing as a minor criminal conviction in the State of Colorado. The best decision you can make for your future is to immediately hire a Colorado Springs misdemeanor lawyer who will advise you of your options, advocate for you, and ensure you receive the best possible outcome.