Does an arrest automatically mean formal criminal charges?

Being taken into custody can throw anyone's life off track. If you, like most other Colorado residents, do not have an in-depth understanding of criminal law, you may automatically feel that you are on your way to facing dire consequences. However, numerous steps go into a criminal case, and it is not always guaranteed that an arrest will lead to formal charges.

An officer believing he or she has reason to arrest you and subsequently take you into custody is typically where a criminal case begins, and while that may certainly be a nerve-wracking experience for you, your case may have a long way to go. From the moment an officer places you under arrest, you may find it useful to consider seeking legal assistance.

Steps of starting a criminal case

As mentioned, an initial arrest does not necessarily mean that you will face formal criminal charges. The police officer who took you into custody will file a report that will then reach the hands of a prosecutor. This person will read the report and decide whether to move forward with pursuing criminal charges. The prosecutor will either choose not to pursue charges, present the evidence to a grand jury to determine whether charges apply or file a complaint with the trial court.

It is important to remember that even if you do face formal charges, the prosecution only has a limited amount of time to file charges after your arrest. As a result, the initial charges may change as your case proceeds, especially if new evidence is uncovered. For example, if authorities accuse you of drinking and driving after a car crash, you may face initial charges for DUI, but if another person suffered injuries in the incident, you may later also face charges of vehicular assault brought against you.

Preliminary hearing

A preliminary hearing may take place if the prosecution decides to move forward with charges but does not first present evidence to a grand jury. The preliminary hearing would involve the prosecutor making a presentation to a judge arguing that a criminal trial should move forward due to the nature and amount of evidence.

From the moment an officer places you under arrest, you may want to remember your constitutional rights, which include remaining silent and your right to an attorney. Having legal assistance could help you understand the early stages of a possible criminal case and also provide you with insight into your defense options if you face formal charges.

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