If you have been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, don’t make the mistake of treating it lightly. The criminal justice system moves quickly and it can be easy to find yourself in serious trouble before you know it. That is why it is crucial that you contact an experienced Colorado misdemeanor defense attorney as soon as possible after you’ve been charged. Your lawyer can evaluate your case, advise you of your options and the possible consequences of different courses of action, and speak with prosecutors on your behalf. A good misdemeanor defense lawyer, especially one who has been a prosecutor himself, will understand how best to approach your case, whether it be through an aggressive defense or through savvy negotiation.
What Are Colorado Misdemeanors?
In Colorado, misdemeanors are divided 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 a county jail, a fine of $500 to $5,000, or both.
- Class Two Misdemeanors. Class Two misdemeanors can result in a possible jail term of three to 12 months, a fine of $250 to $1,000, or both.
- Class Three Misdemeanors. Class Three misdemeanors can lead to penalties of up to six months in jail, a fine of $50 to $750, or both.
What Happens After I’m Charged with a Misdemeanor in Colorado Springs?
- Arrest and charges. One of two things will happen when a police officer arrests you for a misdemeanor in Colorado Springs. You will either be given a summons and complaint ordering you to appear in court several weeks later or the officer will take you to the El Paso County Jail where you will have to stay until the next court date unless you can post a bond.
- Meeting with your lawyer. As noted above (and as I discuss repeatedly throughout this website), the most important thing you need to do after a misdemeanor arrest is get yourself a criminal defense lawyer. Yes, it will cost you some money, at least after a free initial consultation. Every case is different and how much you will spend in legal fees or what you may be required to provide as a retainer will largely depend on the level of the offense and the potential exposure and severity of the consequences. When you first meet with your defense attorney, bring a copy of your summons and any other paperwork related to the case. Tell your lawyer everything, whether you think it helps your case or not. Remember, what you say to your lawyer is protected by the attorney-client privilege and he or she needs to know all the facts in order to do their job.
- Establishing your defense. After you’ve retained a Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney, he or she will enter an “appearance” with the court, advising the judge and prosecutors on your case that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney so that no one will communicate with you without your attorney consenting and present. Your attorney will order what is known as discovery, gathering evidence and testimony such as police reports, 911 calls, witness statements, photos and any other evidence that the police gathered and the district attorney plans to use against you. Your attorney will review all the evidence, looking for weaknesses in the prosecutions case, mistakes made by law enforcement, and potential defenses to the charges.
- Plea negotiations with prosecutors. After your attorney has evaluated all the facts and evidence, he or she will have a good sense of the strengths or weaknesses of the prosecution’s case against you. Usually, your attorney will meet with prosecutors to discuss the possibility of a plea bargain, though a plea arrangement may not be either available or advisable. If a plea offer has been made, your attorney will discuss it with you and advise you of the risk and benefits of either accepting the offer or rejecting it and proceeding to trial. Ultimately, the choice will be yours but keep in mind that pleading guilty to a misdemeanor comes with consequences. It will likely leave you saddled with a criminal record that could prevent you from getting a job, getting into college, or buying a home. You could lose some of your rights, and it could have severe repercussions for your immigration status as well. No one should ever enter into a plea agreement without discussing all of the possible implications with their lawyer.
- Trial. If you and your defense lawyer make the decision to go to trial, you will appear before a judge (a bench trial) or a judge and jury to present your defense and fight the charges. Your attorney should be aggressive, thorough, and strategic, challenging prosecutors at every turn. At the end of the trial, a verdict will be returned and you will either be acquitted or found guilty on some or all of the charges against you. If you are found guilty, your attorney may believe there is a solid basis for appealing the verdict and seek to have it overturned.
If you are incarcerated, you will do your time in a county jail and not state prison, which is where convicted felons serve their sentences. But from the inside of a cell for days, weeks, or months, it all looks and feels the same. Even if you don’t receive jail time, you may receive probation, have to complete hours of community service, lose your driving privileges, or pay restitution to any victims of your offense.
All of this may sound intimidating and scary, and it can be. But fighting a Colorado misdemeanor is not something you should or need to do alone. Call an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney who can help you through the process and put the experience behind you so you can move forward with your life.