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Criminal procedures can be complex, laden with various steps that can be nearly impossible to navigate. In no other state is this truer than in Colorado. 

Colorado has one of the most complicated criminal procedures of any state in the country. If you or someone you know is facing criminal proceedings, you need a criminal lawyer who is well-versed in the state’s system. 

Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer is indeed a must to battle criminal charges, but it is half the battle. The other half lies in knowing what to expect during criminal defense proceedings. Colorado’s criminal process consists of eight steps, beginning with the arrest and ending with sentencing. 

Between these two points is when your criminal defense lawyer will be of most help. Read on to learn more about the steps involved in Colorado’s criminal process. 

1. Arrest 

The criminal process in Colorado begins as it does in many other states — with an arrest. The arrest involves a police officer taking a suspected offender into custody. 

If a police officer has a warrant of arrest, he or she can take a suspected offender into custody. However, there are situations wherein a police officer can make an arrest without a warrant. 

One situation is if the police officer sees the person in the act of committing the crime. For example, if a police officer was on routine patrol and sees an individual robbing another, he or she can go in pursuit and arrest the culprit. 

The officer, with sufficient reason to suspect an offender, can also make an arrest. In such a situation, the arrest would still be lawful even if the suspect was not caught in the act. 

During an arrest, the police officer may read an offender’s Miranda rights. This is not an absolute necessity, especially in situations when the offender was caught committing a crime. 

2. Advisement

There are two advisements during criminal case proceedings — the first and the second. 

The first advisement represents the first time the offender will be in court. During the first advisement, the offender — now the defendant — will be notified that legal action is being taken against him or her. 

The court will also inform the defendant that he or she will be under investigation. It is also during this time when the court informs the defendant of the charges. 

During the second advisement of charges, the court needs to ensure that the defendant understands the reasons for his or her arrest. Failure of the court to do this will constitute a mistrial, delaying the resolution of the case even further. 

3. Bond Hearing

The second advisement involves the judge setting a bond amount. The bond is an amount of money the defendant needs to pay. By paying the set bond, the defendant can be free temporarily. The defendant will not be in police custody throughout the resolution of the criminal case. 

As you might imagine, the bond can be worth a lot of money. The defendant with the aid of a criminal lawyer can challenge the amount and petition for a lower bond. 

Defendants in criminal proceedings are entitled to being free on a bond. The only exception is for defendants accused of homicide.

There are consequences for a defendant trying to escape the state or refusing to report back to court on a bond. If the defendant does either, he or she will be arrested.  

4. Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is where you will really need the counsel and representation of your criminal lawyer. During the preliminary hearing, your criminal lawyer can challenge the accusations and charges brought to you by the DA (district attorney). 

During the preliminary hearing, the judge will not be making any rulings. However, it is during this stage of the proceedings that your attorney can disprove any evidence the DA has against you. 

Doing this successfully will result in reasonable doubt in regards to your charges. This can take you a step closer to resolution and acquittal. 

5. Disposition Hearing

The disposition hearing takes place after your criminal lawyer’s full and comprehensive review of all evidence and records pertinent to your case. The disposition hearing is not a trial. Rather, it is time when your criminal lawyer can negotiate a plea with the DA. 

A plea bargain during the disposition hearing can have several outcomes. These can be: 

  • The reduction of a sentence
  • The dismissal of some charges
  • An agreement on the sentence

Because the disposition hearing is not a trial, the DA is under no obligation to present all evidence against the defendant. The accused will also not be in attendance and will not need to testify. 

6. Arraignment

Arraignment is when you either plead guilty or not guilty. A plea of “not guilty” sets in motion events that will culminate in a jury trial and final sentencing. 

If you plead guilty, on the other hand, you will be sentenced based on the terms agreed upon during your plea bargain. 

7. Trial Before a Jury (If You Plead Not Guilty)

The jury trial is the final step in the criminal process before sentencing. It is during this time that all parties involved in the case will be in attendance. It is also when the victim will testify, along with the DA’s complete presentation of his or her case against you. 

The jury trial takes place before a judge and jury. The jury will consist of six to 12 people, to whom your criminal lawyer and the plaintiff’s counsel will argue their respective cases. 

Once your criminal lawyer and the DA have presented their cases, the jury will convene for deliberation. The results of the deliberation will result in your exoneration or conviction. 

8. Sentencing

If the jury deems that the DA has not mounted a sufficient case and argument against the defendant, the jury will not find the defendant guilty. On the other hand, if there is sufficient evidence that points to the accused’s hand in the crime, the jury will find the defendant guilty as charged. 

After the jury’s deliberation, the judge will make a decision. The judge will decide on the defendant’s punishment or go based on the results of the jury’s consensus. 

Hire an Experienced Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer

The criminal process of Colorado can be lengthy and complicated. While the state allows for self-representation, it is not a course of action recommended by anybody. Going about fighting charges on your own will be an uphill battle — one you are likely to lose. 

The pivotal part of fighting off charges is by proving reasonable doubt. In other words, the ability to disprove the charges brought by the DA can make or break your criminal defense. For this, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows the nuances of Colorado’s criminal court process. 

If you or someone you know is anticipating criminal proceedings, know that there is help available. For decades, we at Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC  have fought for clients facing criminal charges and won. 

Additional reading:

5 Questions to Ask Your Denver Criminal Lawyer

16 Terms You Need to Know in Criminal Defense Cases


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