The Denver Criminal Court Process
Advisal or Filing of Charges
The accused must appear in court and is given a copy of the 'Complaint' or criminal charges against him. The court also advises a Defendant of his or her rights. Bond may be set at this time, and an attorney can help you argue to the judge for a lower bond.
Being charged with a serious felony entitles you to a preliminary hearing. At this point, the judge decides if there is probable cause to 'bind the case over' to the next stage in Colorado District Court. Evidence is presented and the District Attorney must prove that it is more likely than not that a crime was committed, and that it was you that committed it. It is critical to have a criminal attorney present at this point. Cross examination of prosecution witnesses will uncover critical inconsistencies that may be used later in trial. Important decisions must be made that will strengthen or weaken your defense further down the road.
If your case is not serious enough to entitle you to a preliminary hearing, the next court appearance after the Filing of Charges may be a Disposition Hearing. This is an opportunity to discuss a possible plea offer with the prosecutor. It is dangerous for an accused to speak directly to the prosecutor. An attorney on your side will shield you from disclosing information - or making statements - that will hurt you later.
If at the Preliminary Hearing the court finds probable cause to bind the case over, you will be set for arraignment. The Defendant will once again be advised of his or her rights. This is where you must plead not guilty to preserve your right to a jury trial.
It is critical that the Defendant not waive his or her right to a jury trial. A 'jury trial' is before jury, where as a 'court trial' is before a judge. It is generally favorable for a defendant to have a jury trial. The court system prefers court trials because they cost less and take less time. However, it is your life and liberty that are at stake. Be sure to elect a jury trial.
Depending upon the facts of the case, your attorney may file motions to suppress, or keep out of trial, evidence that was taken in violation of your Constitutional Rights. This may include such things as statements or physical evidence. Motions may also be filed to address procedural issues regarding the case. For example, your attorney might file a motion asking the judge to order the prosecution to turn over evidence that you need to prepare your defense, or evidence that will help prove your innocence. A pretrial hearing is an opportunity for your attorney to argue these issues to the judge.
After a loss at trial, or a plea of guilty, the defendant is sentenced by the Colorado court. This will often occur a couple of months after the date of conviction. During that time, the Colorado probation department will create a 'PSIR' or pre-sentence investigation report. Your attorney can work with probation to find other sentencing alternatives than being sentenced to jail or prison.