Process of a Criminal Court Case

The general process for a criminal case in Colorado is complex and can require many steps and actions to successfully navigate. Keep in mind that this is a simplified overview, and the specifics can vary depending on the nature and severity of the offense.  It is always recommended to seek an attorney and discuss your case in particular. Here are the key steps involved:

Investigation:  The process usually begins with law enforcement conducting an investigation into a suspected crime. They collect evidence, interview witnesses, and gather information to build a case.

Arrest:  If law enforcement believes they have sufficient evidence, they may arrest the suspect. The arrest can occur either with or without a warrant, depending on the circumstances.

Initial Appearance:  After the arrest, the suspect is brought before a judge for an initial appearance. During this stage, the judge informs the accused of the charges, their rights, and sets conditions for release (bail or bond) if applicable.

Formal Charges:  The prosecution (usually a District Attorney) reviews the evidence gathered during the investigation and decides whether to file formal charges. If charges are filed, the accused is provided with a charging document called an “Information.”

Arraignment:  At the arraignment, the accused appears in court, is formally informed of the charges, and enters a plea. The options are typically guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

Preliminary Hearing:  If the defendant is charged with a more serious felony (F3 and above), they will be entitled to a Preliminary Hearing. At this hearing, the judge must decide if there is sufficient probable cause to move the case into District Court. The prosecutor must present evidence that shows it is more likely than not that a crime occurred, and that you, the defendant, are guilty.

Plea Bargaining:  In many cases, the prosecution and defense engage in plea bargaining to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This involves negotiations regarding the charges, potential sentence, or other aspects of the case. If a plea agreement is reached, the case may proceed to sentencing without a trial.

Pre-Trial Motions:  Before the trial, both the defense and prosecution may file pre-trial motions. These motions address legal issues, such as the admissibility of evidence or requests for dismissal. The judge rules on these motions.

Trial:  If the case goes to trial, the prosecution presents its evidence, and the defense has the opportunity to challenge that evidence and present its own case. The trial usually consists of opening statements, witness testimony, cross-examination, closing arguments, and jury instructions. At the end of the trial, the jury deliberates and reaches a verdict.

Sentencing:  If the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty, the court proceeds to sentencing. The judge considers various factors such as the severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. The sentence may include fines, probation, community service, imprisonment, or a combination of these.

Appeals:  After a conviction, the defendant may have the right to appeal the verdict or the sentence. Appeals are typically based on claims of legal errors that occurred during the trial or sentencing process.

It’s important to note that the above process can vary based on the specific circumstances of each case, and the timelines can also vary significantly. It’s advisable to consult with a criminal defense attorney for accurate and detailed information about the Colorado criminal case process.

If you are in need of legal assistance please contact us

Norml Legal Committee
The National Trial Lawyers Top 100