State criminal statutes can vary in their details, but the general criminal process is similar across the country. If you're suspected of a crime in Colorado, here are a few particulars you should know.
Before police officers can arrest you, they must be reasonably sure you've committed a crime. This means they have probable cause. Two examples of this are when a judge has issued an arrest warrant in your name or when a police officer witnesses you commit a crime. Immediately after your arrest, the officer must advise you of your Miranda rights: the right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. At the police station, you'll be fingerprinted and photographed in a procedure called booking. Officers will also confiscate your personal belongings and escort you to a holding cell.
The Bail Process
Bail is a payment you make as a promise to return to court when scheduled. The amount is intended to be just enough to guarantee that you do so. If you pay your bail in full, it's returned to you when your case is over if you've met all conditions of bail. You can also pay a bail agent a nonrefundable percentage of your bail – often 10 to 15 percent – or you can allow the court to record a lien against your property in the form of a property bond instead. If the court doesn't consider you a flight risk, it can release you on your word that you'll return to court. This is called personal recognizance.
Your arraignment is often your first court appearance. The judge will outline the complaint against you and you must enter a plea. Many people choose to plead not guilty to preserve their right to trial. If you plead guilty, you're admitting to the crime and you won't have to go to trial.
Plea Bargaining Process
Many cases don't go to trial. The defendant and prosecutor reach an agreement regarding sentencing instead, called a plea bargain. You can plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge, a lighter sentence, or some other concession from the prosecutor.
Preliminary Hearings for Felonies
In Colorado, preliminary hearings are reserved for Class 3 felonies and more serious crimes. At this hearing, the judge evaluates the prosecutor's evidence and decides if it proves that a crime more than likely occurred and whether you committed it. If so, you'll be charged and your case moves to district court.
Trial and Sentencing Procedures
In Colorado, you're entitled to a jury trial within six months of being charged. At trial, both your attorney and the prosecutor present their cases and their witnesses. Both can cross-examine each other's witnesses. If the jury finds you guilty, the judge will set your sentence, most likely at a future date. When determining your sentence, the judge will consult state sentencing guidelines and may consider other factors, such as your criminal history and remorsefulness.
Let a Criminal Lawyer or Law Firm Help
Colorado criminal statutes are complicated and can't be fully explained in one short article. To ensure that you preserve your rights and get a fair hearing, talk with an experienced criminal attorney if you're accused of a crime.