Understanding the Criminal Defense Process in Colorado
After you’ve been pulled over, arrested, and charged with a crime – and are facing the severe penalties than can follow if convicted - there’s nothing “typical” about it for you. Your life is unique, and the circumstances of your case are as well. You need a defense attorney who can develop a defense strategy that best fits your individual case to give you the best chance of a positive outcome.
But while every criminal case is different, criminal defense cases in Colorado Springs typically follow a similar course. As you look prepare to confront your ordeal with Colorado’s criminal justice system, here is what you can likely expect:
Arrest and charges
In most misdemeanor cases, you will be given a summons and complaint ordering you to appear in court. The time between the summons and ticket will usually be a couple of weeks to a few months. In some cases, you will be arrested and taken to the El Paso County jail. If this is the case, you will be required to remain in jail until the next court date unless you can post a bond. In felony cases, you will be arrested and required to post bond either through cash, a surety, or a personal recognizance bond.
Hiring a criminal defense attorney
Throughout this website, I have discussed over and over the reasons why hiring a criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process and defend your rights is absolutely essential no matter what charges you face. When you first meet with a defense attorney, bring a copy of your summons and any other paperwork related to the case. The attorney will review the charges and learn the facts as you understand them. Based on his or her conversation with you, a fee will be set. Usually, some sort of retainer is required. In certain circumstances, a payment plan may be available. The fee will be based on the level of the offense and the potential exposure and severity of the consequences.
Building a strong 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. In Colorado, the district attorney is required to give all of the evidence to your attorney in advance of trial. After receiving all of the evidence, your attorney will review it to see if there is sufficient evidence against you. Your attorney will also be looking for weaknesses, mistakes made by law enforcement, and potential defenses to the charges.
Plea negotiations with prosecutors
After your attorney has evaluated all of 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 in a given case. 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.
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.
Again, every criminal case is different and how your case proceeds may not exactly follow the steps above. But an experienced criminal defense lawyer will be prepared to face every possible nuance that may arise in your case, and will fight tirelessly to protect you, your rights, and your freedom.