How Do Criminal Cases Start in Colorado?

In Colorado, there’s no such thing as a victim pressing charges or swearing out a complaint. Instead, the state prosecutes a person who violates criminal law based on the District Attorney’s “charging decision.” Crimes generally fall under felony and misdemeanor categories, attracting different penalties.

You can be sentenced to prison if convicted of a felony, but misdemeanor convictions often carry a jail sentence of no more than two years in the county jail. Whatever type of criminal charge you face, you should contact a skilled criminal litigation lawyer in Colorado for legal representation.

They can help you create a strong defense against the charges to protect your rights. They can also explain what to expect when facing criminal charges.


Once you’ve been accused of a felony crime, law enforcement officers will investigate the charges and arrest you if they suspect you of committing the crime. They will then take you into custody and detain you to answer the criminal charges.

The three circumstances under which an officer can arrest you are:

  • If you committed a crime in the presence of the officer
  • If the officer has an arrest warrant against you
  • If the officer has probable cause to believe you committed a crime

Once you have been taken into custody, you have a right to contact a lawyer from a Colorado criminal defense law firm for legal representation. Remember to exercise the right not to say anything until your lawyer arrives, as anything you say could be used against you in court.


You will typically be summoned if yours is a misdemeanor or petty offense charge. An example is when you get a traffic ticket. You will see an X in the corner of the ticket next to that offense, denoting that the law enforcement officer believes you committed an offense by careless driving, speeding, or driving under the influence.

For other types of misdemeanors, you will receive summons marked with the type of misdemeanor violation, such as harassment or assault.

Bond Hearing

After an arrest for criminal charges, you have the right to a reasonable bond set in most cases. The bond ensures you appear in court on the designated dates upon release from police custody. You must appear in court to avoid losing the money or item you post as bail.

During the bail hearing, the judge will consider various factors like the threat to pose to the community and whether you’re a flight risk in determining the bond amount. Aggressive Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyers can argue to reduce the bond amount by showing you’re not a danger to the public or a flight risk.

Advisement or Arraignment in County Court

Whether facing misdemeanor or felony charges, you will appear for Advisement. The 1st Advisement is the first time you’re brought to court soon after your arrest. At this point if its a felony case, the DA hasn’t filed charges yet.

The judge will advise you of the charges for which you’re being investigated and inform you of your rights. They will also determine the bond at this time. The 2nd Advisement happens after the DA files charges, and the judge will mention the formal charges against you and the possible penalties. A date is also set for the next court appearance.

Preliminary Hearing

If you are facing a qualifying felony charge, you are entitled to request a preliminary hearing to force the state to prove that the police had probable cause to arrest you before the case can proceed further. A preliminary hearing is typically available for class 1, 2, or 3 felonies, for any felony involving mandatory sentencing, or for any felony charge for which you are currently being held in custody.

A preliminary hearing is an evidentiary hearing where the state will be required to put on evidence and witnesses in front of the judge in order to prove that law enforcement had probable cause to arrest you.

Plea Setting

In misdemeanor cases, there will be a hearing in a County Court after arraignment at which you will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. Consult a skilled Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney from a reputable criminal defense law firm before taking a plea. They can help you understand the risk of each option and help you make the most suitable choice to ease your case.
The judge will schedule further proceedings in which the lawyers and judge may discuss how the case can be resolved without going to trial. You could also get a chance to change your plea to guilty or no contest through a plea agreement.

Motions Hearing

Motion hearings can happen at multiple places during the case process. For the hearings to happen, your criminal litigation attorney in Colorado must be requesting something from the court that requires the judge’s decision. For example, they could be motions to suppress evidence or statements you made during the investigations.

Pretrial Readiness Conference

A pretrial readiness conference will typically be held one week to a month before the trial begins to ensure everyone is ready to go to trial before the set date. Lawyers can bring up any issue the court must address before the trial date.

Jury Trial

Both sides involved in a criminal case have to pick a jury through a process known as Voir Dire, after which the DA presents the case to the jury. They must prove to the jury that you’re guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise, the jury must find you not guilty.

Your criminal defense lawyer in Colorado will cross-examine the witnesses presented by the DA and, if possible, present witnesses on your behalf. Experienced lawyers know how to navigate complex criminal laws and can sometimes help you win without presenting any evidence.

Sentencing Date

Sentencing is the last thing in the criminal procedure in Colorado criminal cases. It happens if you’re found guilty of the charges or after you decide to take a plea offer given by the District Attorney. The jury decides the most appropriate legal penalty for the crime at sentencing. Skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorneys can fight to have the punishments reduced.

Seek the Legal Guidance of a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney in Colorado

Facing criminal charges in Colorado can be shattering, and you don’t have to face the legal system alone. Reputable criminal litigation lawyers in El Paso County can ease the process by ensuring you understand what happens at each step of the case. They can help you face your fears and fight for a favorable outcome to protect your future.

Our Colorado Springs criminal defense law firm provides legal counsel and representation for clients caught up in the legal system. Your past mistakes shouldn’t impede your future, and we will fight to protect your rights. Contact the Joyner Law criminal defense firm at (719) 548-4750 to schedule a FREE case evaluation.