Misdemeanor Process in Colorado
Misdemeanor cases proceed through court in the same general way as felony cases, but some of the steps may be skipped. For example, your Denver attorney may file a motion to waive (or skip) the arraignment. Unless you are in custody, it often does not benefit you to go through the arraignment, this step is often a waste of time. Often, your attorney will not even have had the opportunity to review the evidence against you by the time arraignment occurs. Therefore, no meaningful progress can be made in your case by going to court at this stage. This is different than in felony cases, where the judge will almost certainly want to have a formal arraignment, in which your plea of not guilty is entered on the record in open court.
Misdemeanors are prosecuted in both state and municipal courts. Municipal courts often do not have "classes" of misdemeanors as in state court, rather any misdemeanor is punishable with the same maximum sentence. In state court, however, they are divided into classes. These include "Class 1" through "Class 3," with Class 1, or "M1" being the most serious, and carrying the greatest possible sentence. Generally, the maximum sentence for an M1 offense is 18 months in the county jail. However, if the offense is considered an "extraordinary risk crime," the maximum sentence increases to 24 months. As with all crimes, if you are convicted of more than one misdemeanor, the judge can add your total jail time from each charge together, making the sentences "consecutive." For more on the possible penalties for misdemeanor convictions, please visit our sentencing page.
Incredibly, in order to exercise your Constitutional right to a jury trial in municipal court, you must pay a jury fee. Please be sure to pay this fee promptly at the beginning of your case, as there are strict deadlines. If you fail to pay by the deadline, the court will unconstitutionally deprive you of your right to a trial by jury.
Misdemeanor Jury Trials in Colorado
Jury trials in Colorado misdemeanor cases are presented to a jury of six people, whereas in felony cases, they are to a jury of twelve. Attorneys are generally allowed less time for jury selection than in felony cases, and because there are less jurors to choose, the trial in a misdemeanor case generally takes less time than for a felony. However, all of the same Constitutional laws, criminal laws, and rules of evidence apply as do in felony cases.
It is important not to take a pending charge lightly because it is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor convictions leave behind a criminal record that can hurt your ability to find employment or even housing. Judges in misdemeanor court sometimes issue sentences harsher than you would get in felony court. Some offenses have additional consequences for a conviction. For example, Domestic Violence related convictions can result in you being prohibited from carrying firearms, and will require 36 weeks of classes. A conviction for DUI can cause you to lose a professional driver's license, in addition to your regular driver's license. Please call our office if you have questions about the potential consequences of any misdemeanor offense.