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Colorado Criminal Procedure

How a Colorado criminal case proceeds:

--An arrest is made (an arrest warrant or a summons is issued).

--The person is charged.

--There is an advisement/bond return hearing. This is where the person is advised of what charges, if any, have been filed.

--Preliminary hearing. In certain felony cases, the District Attorney has to produce enough evidence for the judge to determine probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and probable cause to believe the defendant has committed it.  This hearing is for the purpose of determining whether enough evidence exists to proceed to trial.  The court merely decides whether there is evidence which could support a conviction.  During this hearing, the court does not weigh the credibility or believability of the witnesses and must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution.  Hearsay evidence is allowed at such hearings and the defense has a very limited ability to call witnesses.  If a determination of probable cause is found, the case will be sent to district court.

--An Arraignment is where the Defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty.  If a plea bargain has been reached, it is often entered into at this time and a date for sentencing is set. If not, future court dates are then scheduled which may include motions dates (where legal arguments are made concerning various aspects of the case), subpoena return dates (where documents are given to the court to review), pretrial conferences (where the parties and the court assess whether the case will be proceeding to trial) and to handle any pretrial procedural matters and the trial.

--A Motion hearing is an evidentiary hearing for the judge, without a jury present, to determine various legal and evidentiary issues in a case.

--A felony jury trial will have 12 people on the jury and maybe an alternate or alternates. A typical misdemeanor trial will have six jurors.  Their verdict must be unanimous

The Defendant has a right to a speedy trial within 6 months from the date of entry of a not guilty plea (often the arraignment, but in many cases this may occur much later).  The Defendant may waive that right, which does not forfeit that right forever, it merely starts the six month time period running anew. 

The Prosecution has the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  The Defendant does not have to prove anything.  If the Prosecution fails to carry its rather heavy burden of proof beyond all reasonable doubt, then the jury MUST return a verdict of  "Not Guilty."


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Last modified: 02/28/11