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What To Expect From The Criminal Justice Process

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Colorado’s criminal justice process isn’t one that you’ll want to go through alone. Whether you’re currently under investigation or you’ve been charged with a crime already, it’s important to know what Colorado’s justice system process is, what your constitutional rights are and what steps to take after an arrest.

Colorado's Criminal Justice System: Following an Arrest


While every situation is different, after an arrest, the following can occur:

  • Booking: You’ll be taken to the local police station where you’ll be booked. This includes identifying yourself, having your fingerprints and photograph taken, and answering basic questions. You may be held in jail until the court has a bond hearing.
  • Investigation: An investigation may occur right after booking, which may include interrogation, writing samples, personal search, line-up, or even collect saliva or hair samples (only if a warrant is issued).
  • Court appearance: You’ll be brought before a judge where the charges against you are reviewed and to determine if there’s cause to hold you or if bail will be granted. This appearance will occur within 48 hours or less of your arrest.
  • Hearing: If your charges are high enough, a preliminary hearing will occur where the judge will determine if there was probable cause to charge you with that level of crime. In all levels of cases, at a court hearing, you may be able to enter a plea deal after your defense attorney negotiates on your behalf with the DA, or you’ll be able to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, a trial will commence.
  • Discovery: A period where both your defense attorney and the prosecutor can share evidence and any requests are made. The state is required to provide your attorney with all the evidence they are trying to use against you, and your attorney can also request additional evidence at this time. Your attorney should also review this evidence with you and form a strategic plan for your defense.
  • Trial: A jury will be selected, your lawyer will give an opening statement, and then your case will be heard.
  • Sentencing: The best result is being found “not guilty” and you’re free from the criminal justice process. If guilty, a separate hearing is held, and your sentence will be determined by the judge.

Throughout the entire process, you have constitutional rights, which the justice system must uphold at all times.

Your Constitutional Rights in the Criminal Justice System

As a citizen of the United States, you have certain constitutional rights that protect you in various ways. These rights include the:

Fourth Amendment

Your fourth amendment right protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. Police must have a warrant to come into your home or invade any personal property in most cases. Some exceptions do occur, but they must be backed by law and your criminal defense attorney will know whether they were done correctly or not. Law enforcement must have a probable cause for the warrant, and a judge must issue the warrant.

Fifth Amendment

You have the “right to remain silent.” This right means that:

  • You aren’t required to testify against yourself
  • You can refuse to answer questions

Silence cannot be used as an admission of guilt. Your fifth amendment rights also prohibit double jeopardy so that you cannot be prosecuted for the same offense more than once.

The fifth amendment also guarantees your right to due process, meaning that the government must honor your rights.

Sixth Amendment

A vital amendment that requires the prosecution to be transparent during the trial. Government officials cannot secretly prosecute. You have a right to:

  • Know the charges you’re facing
  • A speedy trial
  • Legal counsel
  • Confront witnesses

Eighth Amendment

The eighth amendment protects you from “cruel and unusual punishment.” A jail or prison cannot use extreme or unusual punishment measures against you. Your eighth amendment also protects you from excessive bail based on the charges against you. Note: Bail isn’t a constitutional right.

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Relationship With Your Criminal Defense Lawyer


In the face of criminal charges, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, even if you know your rights. An attorney will serve as your advocate, fight to protect your rights, and build a strong defense for your case.

How a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You

An experienced lawyer knows the criminal justice system inside and out. They understand how prosecutors work, and that will work in your favor. Your lawyer will help you in a number of ways, including:

  • Gather evidence and investigate the charges against you.
  • Build a strong defense for your case.
  • Guide you through every step of the legal process.
  • Advocate for you in court at trial.
  • Communicate with your loved ones (with your permission).


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What to Expect at Your First Meeting with Your Defense Lawyer

Your Lawyer Will Gather Information

The initial meeting with your lawyer will be focused primarily on gathering information. Your lawyer will ask questions and take down information. It is your job to be honest and to answer each question as thoroughly as possible.

Immediate Information

Initially, your lawyer will ask for basic information, such as:

  • You full name
  • Your address (home and work)
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Birthdate and birthplace
  • Social Security number
  • Your criminal record
  • Education and work history
  • Marital status
  • Recent hospitalization
  • Military service
  • Medication or medical needs

Information to Help with Your Long-Term Defense

In addition to the basic information above, your lawyer will also want to know:

  • The events that led to your arrest
  • The circumstances of your arrest
  • What happened immediately after you were taken into custody
  • Witnesses and evidence

Information Related to Your Charges

During your initial meeting, your lawyer will likely discuss the charges that you’re facing and potential resolutions. For example, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, your lawyer may discuss ways to reduce or eliminate the charges.

Your Lawyer Will Share Information With You

Your lawyer can and will share information with you and also gather any information from you that may strengthen your case. Your lawyer will review everything with you during the initial meeting and educate you on your legal rights and how to protect them.

Right to Remain Silent

You have a constitutional right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Your friends and family will be pressured to provide evidence against you and may even be subpoenaed. It’s best to not discuss your case with anyone but your lawyer.

Attorney-Client Privilege

Your conversations with your attorney are confidential, but this privilege doesn’t spread to a third party that may overhear what you tell your attorney. This includes family members who are in the room during your meeting with your lawyer. Communications from jail may be recorded, or other inmates may overhear you.

Your Constitutional Rights / Searches and Seizures

Searches and seizures may not be legal without a warrant being issued, but that is not always the case. It depends on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. You do not have to consent to a search — and you shouldn’t — but you will have to allow a search if a warrant exists. Search and seizures are serious, and your lawyer should be called immediately.

Your Chance to Ask Questions

Your lawyer will allow you to ask any questions that you may have about the criminal justice process as well as how a conviction will impact you.

Colorado criminal procedure

  • Arrest or

    Arrest or

    The process begins with either an arrest or a summons. The accused is either arrested or served with paperwork summoning them to appear in court. During an arrest, Miranda rights may or may not be read to you. Officers are only required to recite your rights if they intend to question you about potentially incriminating things.

  • Bond Hearing

    Bond Hearing

    In most cases, you're entitled to have a reasonable bond set after you've been arrested. In situations involving domestic violence, the police will request input from the victim before setting a bond. Bonds are set to ensure that a person appears in court at their court dates. If they don’t show up, they forfeit the money that was paid for the bond.

  • Advisement of

    Advisement of

    Whether you are arrested or given a summons to appear, the court must make sure you understand what crimes you are being accused of committing. This is called advisement of charges. The District Attorney will detail the specific charges against you, and the Judge has to make sure you understand what possible penalties are associated with that charge in the state.

  • Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony

    Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony

    A preliminary hearing is a way for your defense attorney to challenge the District Attorney’s right to bring charges against you by making them prove that there is reason to believe you committed a crime. The Judge is not deciding your guilt or innocence, but rather whether or not there is probable cause to charge you with the crime in question.

  • Pretrial Conference /

    Pretrial Conference /

    This court date comes after your attorney has reviewed all of the reports and evidence in your case. Here’s where your attorney will engage in plea negotiations with the DA. If they can reach an agreement on the case, you may be able to take a plea bargain. If they cannot reach a resolution, your case will be set for an arraignment or trial date.

  • Arraignment


    An arraignment is the final date for you to decide how you choose to plea. Guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, then the case is set for a sentencing date. If you plead not guilty, you and your attorney will then set the case for trial.

  • Motions Hearing

    Motions Hearing

    A motion hearing is when an attorney makes a request that requires a decision from the judge. For example, motions to suppress evidence or statements. These motions can limit the information that goes before a jury if it benefits your case, and there are legal grounds for doing so.

  • Pretrial Readiness

    Pretrial Readiness

    A pretrial readiness conference is held at some point before trial. It usually is held about a week to a month before the date trial is set to begin. This court date ensures everyone is ready to go to trial on the set date. It is also a time for lawyers to bring up any issues they may have to be addressed before the day of trial.

  • Jury Trial

    Jury Trial

    After a jury is selected for trial, the District Attorney’s responsibility is to present the case to the jury. The DA must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the crime. Otherwise, the jury must find you innocent. Your attorney will be able to cross-examine all of the witnesses, present evidence, and ultimately help you navigate this process.

  • Sentencing


    At sentencing, the Judge must decide the appropriate legal penalty for the crime you plead guilty. The Judge’s decision is based on the listed penalties for the specific charge, recommendations from the presentence investigation, your criminal history, as well as statements made at the sentencing by the District Attorney, your attorney, you, and any named victims of the crime.

What is the sentence for misdemeanors in Colorado?

  • Class 1

  • 6 to 18 months in county jail, and/or
  • $500 to $5,000 in fines
  • For extraordinary risk class 1 misdemeanors, the maximum jail sentence is 24 months.
  • For 3rd-degree assault (CRS 18-3-204), the maximum sentence can be 48 months if the victim was on duty as a:
    • Peace officer,
    • Emergency medical provider,
    • Firefighter, or
    • Mental health professional at the Department of Human Services.
  • Class 2

  • 3 to 12 months in county jail, and/or
  • $250 to $1,000 in fines

What are Colorado felony penalties?

  • Class 1

  • Life imprisonment
  • No Colorado crime carries the death penalty.
  • Class 2

  • 8 – 24 years in Colorado State Prison, and/or
  • $5,000 – $1,000,000
  • 5 years of mandatory parole if the offense is a crime of violence. Otherwise, 3 years of mandatory parole.
  • Class 3

  • 4-12 years in prison
  • Fines of up to $750,000 but not less than $3,000
  • 3 years of parole
  • Class 4

  • 2 – 6 years in prison, and/or
  • $2,000 – $500,000
  • 3 years of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 4 felonies, the maximum sentence is 8 years in prison.
  • Class 5

  • 1 – 3 years in prison, and/or
  • $1,000 – $100,000
  • 2 years of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 5 felonies, the maximum sentence is 4 years in prison.
  • Class 6

  • 1 – 18 months years in prison, and/or
  • $1,000 – $100,000
  • 1 year of mandatory parole
  • For extraordinary risk class 6 felonies, the maximum sentence is 2 years in prison.



Colorado Springs Criminal Defense Attorney


At Right Law Group, we understand the stress you are under. Our Criminal Defense Law Firm is here to guide you down the right path to your legal challenge. Whether you are facing your first DUI, a drug charge, need a restraining order, or are facing another type of criminal charge, our firm is committed to your well-being and protecting your rights the right way.

What are the steps in a criminal case?

No two criminal cases will proceed in exactly the same way, but in general, each case will follow the same basic structure. This structure will usually include the following steps:

  1. Investigation
  2. Arrest
  3. Arraignment
  4. Discovery
  5. Plea Bargain
  6. Preliminary Hearing
  7. Pre-Trial Motions
  8. Trial
  9. Verdict
  10. Sentencing
  11. Appeal

What happens at an arraignment in Colorado?

In criminal cases in Colorado, the arraignment is the first court appearance. At this appearance, the defendant is given the details of the charges against them as well as the potential sentencing. At this time the defendant will enter their plea of guilty or not guilty and the judge will then set the details for future proceedings for the case.

Can police press charges if the victim doesn't want to?

For criminal cases, the state determines whether or not to prosecute (press charges). If they do decide to prosecute the defendant, then the victim will likely become a witness for the prosecution (they can even be forced to testify through a subpoena if the state finds it necessary). Whether or not the victim wants to press charges is not relevant to a criminal case. The state will have to listen if a victim says that they do not want charges pressed in a case, but it doesn’t mean the prosecutor will agree with them, or do as the victim asks. All victims in cases do have the right to be heard not only by the DA though, they have the right to be heard by the Judge as well.

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Colorado Springs Criminal Defense Attorney Near You


Our team of Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyers has defended clients against all types of criminal and DUI charges and can provide you with the staunch advocacy you need. Right Law Group is committed to diligently defending your legal concerns.

A criminal charge — no matter what it is — is serious. You want an experienced Colorado Springs criminal law attorney who can offer the legal support you need. We are happy to provide an initial legal consultation at one of our Colorado Springs offices or remotely via video call.

Contact us today for a FREE consultation.

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