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In Colorado, a criminal case typically starts with an arrest. After that, there are set processes and procedures in place. For example, after you are arrested, you will be booked in jail, have bail set by a judge, may face an indictment, and more. The specific steps in your criminal case depend on the charges.

While these situations can be challenging and confusing, you have help available. Hiring a Denver criminal defense lawyer from the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC is highly recommended.

An attorney can provide more advice and guidance regarding the progression and defense of your case. You can also learn more here.

The Arrest

Before diving into the criminal process, it is important to understand that the police must have probable cause to believe you committed a crime.

One way they gain this probable cause is when an officer witnesses something you are doing that is considered criminal or after an investigation that convinces a judge to issue a warrant for your arrest. Just because it is believed that you have committed a crime and been arrested, it does not mean you are automatically guilty. In fact, the entire court system in the United States presumes your innocence until you are proven guilty.

When you are arrested, law enforcement officers will take you into custody. In many situations, an arrest involves an officer searching you, patting you down, handcuffing you, and putting you in the back of their squad car. You may (or may not) be read your Miranda rights. It depends on the criminal offense you are suspected of.

Some people mistakenly believe that it is required that the police read Miranda warnings to them during any arrest. The truth is, though, that this warning is only required when the police interrogate or question you.

After being arrested, you will likely be taken to the local jail and booked with criminal charges pressed against you. Usually, the booking process involves gathering information from you, such as your name and other personal information. Your personal belongings will be taken and cataloged, and you will likely undergo a full body search. Your photo and fingerprints will be taken.

Most booking records are public. In some situations, websites and newspapers will post information about the people who are arrested. This is the case even if you are not convicted or found guilty.

Bail or Bond

Once you are booked into jail, it may be possible for you to be released. Usually, this is possible through bail. However, if you hire a Denver assault lawyer, they may be able to argue that you should be released without having to pay this; however, it is not always possible.

If you can pay the bail amount (or if someone pays it on your behalf), you are released and can continue living your normal life until your scheduled court hearing. However, for situations where you are considered a flight risk, a judge may keep you in custody until your hearing to determine if the bail should be issued and how much it should be.

Some of the factors that impact the bail amount, and if you are a flight risk, include:

  • Your ties to the community
  • Any potential safety risks
  • Your previous record of failing to appear in court
  • The severity of your crime and the potential length of your sentence
  • Your employment status
  • Your financial resources

Many people use the words “bail” and “bond” interchangeably. However, they are not the same in the criminal justice system.

Your bail is how much money you must pay the court before you are released. The money serves as a guarantee that you are going to appear on your court date. If you do not come to your court date or if you flee, the state can keep the bail, which may be a large amount of money.

You may find that you cannot come up with a large amount of money required to get out of jail quickly. In these situations, you can use the services of a bail bonds company. This company will provide some of the money required and guarantees that the whole amount will be paid if you flee.

The bond company gets a percentage of the bail amount from your family. In Colorado, the amount is around 10% to 15% of the total bail. Also, the bond company secures this loan using some type of collateral (i.e., property, a car, a home, etc.).

The Arraignment

After you are arrested, you must appear in court for an arraignment and advisement. In some situations, this is your first appearance. If you cannot afford to hire a Denver drug lawyer, then you can be assigned one by the judge. At this point, a public defender will come to help you with your criminal charges.

Advisement is the process of informing you about the criminal charges you are facing. You will also learn about the potential penalties you can face if you are convicted of the crime.

Arraignment is when the prosecuting attorney presents the criminal complaint against a defendant. This will include a list of all the criminal charges you are facing.

Sometimes, the prosecution will provide an offer and proposed sentence. It is often your first chance to plead “guilty” or “not guilty” to the charges you face. If you decide to accept the given plea deal and you plead guilty to the criminal charges, then the judge will move forward and issue a sentence to you. It is important to note that the judge does not have to go with the sentence that is offered in the deal provided by the prosecuting attorney.

The criminal case will move forward if you decide to plead not guilty. The next step is the pretrial phase. During this, the judge over your case will set a date for your next time in court. If you do not appear at your arraignment (or have your attorney appear for you) you will be issued a bench warrant, which means you will be arrested.

Pretrial Conference

Once the arraignment is complete, your Denver DUI lawyer can see all the records related to your case. This includes evidence, documents, police reports, and more.

The available evidence can help your lawyer determine how strong the case against you is. It will also be used to find weaknesses in the state’s argument.

A pretrial hearing may be used for your defense lawyer and the district attorney or state prosecutor to discuss the possibility of a plea bargain. The plea bargain is an agreement that you reach with the district attorney.

Sometimes, a plea agreement will involve reducing your criminal charges or dropping some of them if you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge. When your attorney can prove that the prosecution does not have a strong case, you may even have the criminal charges against you dismissed due to lack of evidence or some other reason.

Plea Deal

You must decide if you will accept a plea deal. Your attorney can advise you on whether you should take the deal; however, it is ultimately up to you.

Several factors often impact whether you should take the deal and enter a plea of no contest or guilty. Plea bargains are smart options if there is much evidence against you. In this case, accepting a plea deal means that you can get a lighter sentence and avoid the maximum jail time that applies to the situation.

Plea bargains can also be beneficial when the district attorney agrees to reduce your felony charges to a misdemeanor. A felony conviction comes with much more severe penalties and restrictions after you complete your jail sentence (if one is given).

If you have a fairly strong case, then the district attorney may want to have you plead guilty to a reduced charge. This is done so they can get a conviction, even for a minor charge. In some cases, the D.A. knows they do not have a strong case and put up a front to try to get you to do this.

If you turn the deal down, the case may be dropped due to a lack of evidence. It may also be dropped if the D.A. does not have the resources or time to commit to a case that may be unsuccessful.

Once the initial hearing and your pretrial conferences are complete, your attorney will better understand the weaknesses and strengths of your case. You should discuss the possible advantages and disadvantages of accepting the plea deal for your situation.

Jury Trial

Many Colorado criminal cases will never make it to the trial stage. Most will be handled through a plea deal. With this, you can get a reduced sentence while the district attorney gets their conviction.

A criminal trial that a judge hears is called a bench trial. If a jury hears your trial, it is a jury trial.

During a jury trial, the case is argued in front of a judge who determines matters related to the law. The jury is composed of your peers responsible for factual determinations.

The timeline of a trial varies. It can last just a few days or several months. It all depends on the charges and complexity of the case.

Usually, trials start with pretrial motions. During this, the D.A. and defense attorney can file motions that are relevant to your case. One example of this is a motion to suppress evidence. After the pretrial motions are filed, the parties will proceed to jury selection. During this, a large pool of possible jurors will be interviewed. Both attorneys will have the ability to dismiss jurors with cause or by using peremptory challenges.

After the jury selection process is complete, the trial starts. The first part is when the D.A. makes its opening statement. During this, the case against you is presented. After the D.A. is finished, your attorney will have the chance to respond.

The trial will involve several things, such as:

  • Submitting evidence
  • Expert testimony
  • Calling witnesses
  • Arguing against or for a conviction
  • Making a closing argument

At this point, it is up to the jury to decide if there is sufficient evidence to find you guilty. The evidence must be enough to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for each criminal charge you are facing.

If you are guilty of even one charge, your case moves on to the next step – sentencing.

After the Trial

When the trial is complete, you will be issued a date for your sentencing hearing. The sentence you receive is based on the mandatory minimum penalties in the state, the recommended sentences, your past criminal record, and any aggravating or mitigating factors.

The district attorney can file an appeal if you have been found not guilty. This is available if there are errors that occur throughout your trial. After being found guilty, you have the option to file an appeal.

Understanding the Colorado Legal Process

As you can see, many parts of the Colorado criminal trial process exist. Understanding the steps and what happens during each can help you prepare for the situation and know what to expect. This can help to reduce some of the stress you feel related to the situation and the charges you are facing.

Any time you are facing criminal charges, it is recommended that you contact an attorney from the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC, for assistance. Our legal team can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

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