Criminal proceedings in Colorado are pretty complex. What follows below is a brief discussion of some of what happens at some of the various proceedings.
Discovery is an ongoing process throughout the case. In Colorado, the prosecution is required to disclose to the defense all evidence that will be used against the defendant. Most of the discovery comes in the form of narratives written by the law enforcement agency that investigated the case (Weld Sheriff, Larimer Sheriff, Boulder Sheriff, Longmont Police, Colorado State Patrol, and whoever else may have been involved in the investigation.) The prosecution must also disclose criminal records for all witnesses, as well as statements made by witnesses. In some cases, discovery is very small and finished at the very beginning of the case. In more complex cases, discovery is ongoing and can continue right until the eve of jury trial. What does the discovery mean in your case? You will want to make sure you have a lawyer that can decipher the discovery and figure out what kind of vulnerabilities there is in the prosecution’s case. A vulnerability does not necessarily have to be a smoking gun that will bring about an acquittal or cause the prosecution to dismiss a case (although that is possible). A vulnerability could be a particular suppression issue that has some effect on the evidentiary landscape. For example, in a drug case, if there is a pretty solid argument that a search warrant was illegally executed, a defense attorney could use that as a bargaining chip to try and secure a more favorable plea bargain. Just be sure you use a criminal defense lawyer that is experienced and knows how to identify these issues. Another vulnerability would be a situation where the prosecution’s star witness is especially vulnerable to questioning under cross examination because of a pending case, an addiction issue, or some other bias or motive. Things like this can be played by the defense as bargaining chips to try and secure a more favorable resolution.
An arraignment is the initial court appearance on a Colorado criminal case after initial advisement and bond has been set. The defendant is advised of the offense for which they are charged. Sometimes a plea is entered. A defendant can plead guilty if there is a resolution. A defendant can also plead not guilty. If a defendant pleads not guilty and there has not yet been a preliminary hearing, the defendant can set the case for preliminary hearing (if eligible).
Only certain types of felonies are eligible for a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is where the prosecution must prove to the judge that there is probable cause to continue with the charges against the defendant. Hearsay and other evidence that is typically not admissible at a trial is admissible during a preliminary hearing. In many jurisdictions, like Weld and Larimer, quite a bit of plea bargaining takes place before a case is set for preliminary hearing.
The right to a preliminary hearing is a bargaining chip the defense can use to secure a certain type of plea offer from the prosecution because it takes the prosecution time and energy to prepare for a preliminary hearing and issue subpoenas. As a result, quite a bit of discovery and plea negotiations take place prior to the preliminary hearing
Plea negotiations are ongoing in a criminal case. Both the prosecution and the defense will have certain vulnerabilities in their case. A defendant might also have “mitigating” information that the prosecution should consider. Mitigation can be the lack of a criminal history, mental health issues, an addiction issue, or anything else the provides some context into what brought about the charges and put the defendant in a less serious light.
A motions hearing is conducted prior to a jury trial and a hearing where the judge makes decisions about what evidence is admissible at the jury trial. For example, if a person charged with a crime is arrested and then questioned and the police do not read that person the Miranda warning, the defense should file a motion to exclude the interview from evidence. At the motions hearing, the judge would determine whether or not the Fifth Amendment was violated and make rulings regarding the admissibility of the statement.
A jury trial is typically the lengthiest proceeding in a case. The longest portion of the trial is typically jury selection. In more complex cases, jury selection can take several days. In simple cases, a jury can typically be selected within 2 or 3 hours. After the jury is selected, each side makes an opening statement about what evidence they expect to be admitted during the trial. After opening statements, the prosecution puts on its evidence. Evidence will consist of testimony from witnesses and exhibits introduced through those witnesses. After the prosecution finishes its case or “rests,” the defense has the option to present evidence. After the defense rests, the prosecution has the option to present rebuttal evidence. Then, jury instructions are drawn up. The judge then reads the jury the jury instructions and each side gives a closing argument. The jury then deliberates and decides whether or not the prosecution has proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If and when the jury reaches a unanimous verdict (all verdicts must be unanimous) the clerk is contacted and the verdict is read. If there is a conviction, the case is set typically set for a sentencing hearing.
If there is a conviction, either through a plea of guilty or a verdict from a jury, the case is set for a sentencing hearing. This is an opportunity for the defense to present some of the mitigating information above to the judge in order to lessen whatever penalty the judge might impose. A lack of criminal history, remorse, and the presentation of many other things can help persuade a judge to impose the lower end of penalties available.
Mr. Merson has been practicing in Weld County and Northern Colorado for some time. He has defended thousands of people in every case imaginable. and strives to give his clients the best defense possible. If you are accused of a crime, give us a call today and set up a free consultation. You will need a skilled advocate.
You Will Need An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney.
If you have been accused of a crime and your gun rights are in jeopardy, you will want an experienced lawyer. Over the course of his career, Mr. Merson has handled thousands of cases. Mr. Merson provides high quality representation to people accused of criminal charges in Longmont, Berthoud, Erie, Firestone, Frederick, Lyons, Mead, Niwot, or Dacono. To schedule a free consultation, call The Merson Law Office at 970-219-2923 or 303-776-3511. Or fill out an intake form here.
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