In today’s day and age, the use of police body cameras is constantly under scrutiny.
In the state of Colorado (and in every other U.S. state), police body camera footage is used in many criminal cases. However, that doesn’t mean that things always work out as planned.
For example, body camera footage may show that you were acting in self-defense or that a police officer attacked you for no reason.
On the other hand, body camera footage may clearly show that you violated the law, such as if you failed a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test.
In Colorado, as well as almost every other part of the country, police body cameras have become a standard piece of equipment along with items such as a revolver and bullet proof vest. What role does this common piece of technology play in Colorado criminal courts and how can it affect your case?
There’s a right and a wrong way to use a body camera, and every police officer is trained accordingly. But of course, that doesn’t mean they always do the right thing.
Officers in the Denver Police Department, for example, should begin to record as they head towards an in-progress crime.
Here are some (but not all) of the times when the Denver Police Department requires the activation of a body camera:
In addition to the above requirements, every police officer has the discretion to turn their body camera on when they best see fit.
The Colorado Secretary of State website defines the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) as follows:
The Colorado Open Records Act “CORA” requires that most public records be available to the public. A “public record” includes most writings made, maintained, or kept by our office. However, there are some exceptions concerning records made available under CORA.
CORA is in place to govern when the public has access to police body camera footage.
In Colorado, body camera recordings fall under the umbrella of “criminal justice records.” This means that evidence from body cameras is placed under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act (CCJRA).
Due to the fact that body cameras collect official police actions, such as arrests, the footage is required by law to be made available to the public as outlined by the CCJRA. However, in the event that the footage is considered “unofficial actions,” this requirement may not apply.
If you’re charged with a crime in Colorado, your experienced Denver criminal attorney will do whatever it takes to dig up evidence to prevent a conviction or reduce the penalties against you. This includes using police body camera footage as evidence in your favor.
With each passing year, police body camera video evidence is becoming more common in Colorado’s court system. It’s considered in the same light as all other types of evidence, such as photographs.
In order for body camera footage to be submitted for evidence during a trial in Colorado, it must be relevant to the issues before the court. Also, the footage requires authentication before making its way to the jury.
Make sure you hire a Denver criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling this type of evidence to give you the best odds of success in court.
While this is ultimately a question for your Denver criminal defense attorney, police body camera footage that works in your favor should always be considered as part of your legal strategy.
After all, it could be the difference between avoiding a conviction and finding yourself in prison and/or facing other serious consequences.
But remember, there’s more to body camera footage than meets the eye. There’s a lot to take into consideration, such as:
Your Denver criminal attorney should be skilled at explaining things such as camera perspective bias to the jury in order to sway their decision in your favor.
Just because you’re charged with a crime doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. And that’s why it’s so important to understand the types of evidence that can work in your favor, such as police body camera footage. It’s also important to understand the impact on your criminal case whenever body camera evidence is compromised. For example:
In any of these examples, your Denver criminal defense attorney will know how to adjust the legal strategy to maintain a strong criminal case. If you’re facing criminal charges in Colorado and would like to know more about using police body camera footage in your case, contact the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC online or give us a call today to schedule your free consultation.
Here’s the easiest way to put it: Character letters in a Colorado criminal case can have a positive impact on the legal outcome of your case.
The goal of a character letter is to show support for a defendant in a criminal case, with the hopes of swaying the opinion of the judge and/or jury.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, as character letters can come from a variety of people in your life. Most commonly, this includes:
Note: During the sentencing phase of a Colorado criminal defense case, a judge will only allow so many people to testify to a defendant’s character. However, they don’t typically place a limit on the number of character letters you can submit. So take advantage of working with an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney who can help you collect character letters that will work in your favor.
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This depends on many factors, such as who writes the letters, what they say, and of course, the severity of your crime.
For example, if a case is in negotiations, a solid group of character letters can help obtain the best possible plea offer.
Or when a judge has to make a sentencing decision, they’ll definitely review character letters to better understand your background. This has the potential to impact the Colorado judge’s final decision.
Tip: It’s good practice to begin collecting character letters as soon as possible. Your Denver criminal attorney can provide you with guidance on when to collect letters and who you should ask first. Generally, it’s best to ask for character letters from people who aren’t in your family, such as a supervisor at work or a charity where you volunteered your time.
There’s no right or wrong way for a person to write a character letter, but some approaches are definitely better than others.
There are four general details that an effective character letter includes:
Along with the above, there’s one last thing to remember: While character letters are helpful, they’re not a guarantee of the outcome of your criminal case. Just because you have a large number of these doesn’t mean the judge and/or jury will take it easy on you.
Don’t expect your character letters to immediately result in your Colorado criminal case being dismissed. Instead, you should simply hope that these letters effectively show that you have a good character. This can often lead to less serious penalties, such as a shorter time in prison or the opportunity to serve out your sentence at home.
Depending on the severity of your crime, it may be hard to wrap your head around the idea that character letters can have a positive impact on your case. However, these letters can be powerful, so you don’t want to pass them over and simply hope for the best.
Even if you don’t think anyone will provide you with a character letter, sit down and really think about who in your life would be willing to do this. You may be surprised as your list begins to grow.
With the right Denver criminal defense attorney on your side, along with character letters to back you up, you’re in a better position to avoid the most serious punishment for your crime. Contact the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC online today or give us a call to schedule your free consultation.
Being charged with a crime or receiving a traffic ticket is no fun. And what’s worse? Having the court schedule your hearing, arraignment, conference, sentencing, or other proceeding on its calendar and you forget, or fail, to appear.
If juggling your personal life mistakenly placed the court date in the back of your mind, the court will not view your non-appearance as a mistake.
When the judge signs a summons and you violate that order, the court issues a failure to appear (FTA) which comes with steep consequences. At this point, you can try to face the court alone, or you can seek the assistance of a Denver criminal defense lawyer to help you sort through your legal options.
A failure to appear is a punishment given when a person refuses to show up in court for a legal proceeding.
The Colorado Revised Statutes is the governing law for failure to appear.
C.R.S. 16-2-110 basically says anyone that has been served with a summons and fails to appear in court, at the scheduled place and time, may be issued a bench warrant.
If you’re wondering if there’s any circumstance where this rule does not apply, you’re in luck.
The rule does not apply when you hire a Denver criminal defense attorney to appear on your behalf.
In certain situations, you may be given the option to pay the fine before the required court date. If so, you may not have to appear in court.
For example, if you receive a traffic ticket, you may be able to pay the fee instead of going to court. Just remember, paying the traffic ticket means you are pleading guilty to the charge in question. During this time, you may ask yourself, “Should I pay or fight my Colorado traffic ticket?”
But if you want to fight the traffic ticket and possibly get the case dismissed or thrown out, you must be present before the judge on the date and time listed on the ticket.
Your signature on a traffic ticket means you agree to the terms of the court, including appearing for all scheduled court dates.
The act of signing is a promise to go to court. In fact, the city of Colorado Springs traffic court says states:
“When you sign a traffic summons in front of the police officer, you have made a promise to appear in court.
By law, any change must also be in writing.
Failure to pay a traffic summons in full by the required date, or failure to appear in Colorado court when scheduled will result in the issuance of an arrest warrant.”
A failure to appear in Colorado comes with the following consequences:
Warrants are issued on a daily basis for failure to appear. In one recent example, the former IT director for the town of Vail was a no-show in Colorado criminal court in November.
His failure to appear caused the judge to immediately issue bench warrants for him.
No matter how much you try to ignore the FTA warrant, it will not go away.
There is no statute of limitations on the outcomes of failures to appear in Colorado. Ten years can pass by and the FTA warrant would still be in effect.
The best method for handling what comes next after a failure to appear is to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Colorado who can keep you out of hot water with the court.
Early in 2020, the Colorado legislature introduced a bill that would eliminate arrest warrants for failures to appear.
The Grace Period Bill would extend a 72 hour window for defendants to appear in court after missing the initial scheduled date.
Unfortunately, there has been no official movement on the bill, and since February 27, 2020, it is postponed indefinitely.
So, what can you do about this pesky failure to appear you just received? You can handle a failure to appear by taking one step: providing the judge with a good reason why you missed court.
Judges are human beings who may understand a valid reason for missing court, such as:
When you retain the services of a knowledgeable Denver criminal defense attorney, your warrant may be recalled.
If you act swiftly and take advantage of our free consultation, the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC may be able to get a new court date so you can get a fresh start in defending yourself during this trying time. Give us a call today to discuss next steps.