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What to Expect in the Criminal Court Process in Colorado

Posted on June 15, 2023

Navigating the criminal court process in Colorado can be complex and unfamiliar, especially for those who have never been involved in legal proceedings. Understanding what to expect during this time can help individuals better prepare themselves and make informed decisions.

Arrest and Booking

The criminal court process typically begins with an arrest. Law enforcement officers detain the suspect and take them into custody. After the arrest, the individual is usually transported to a police station or county jail for booking. During the booking process, personal information is collected, and fingerprints and photographs are taken. It is crucial to remain calm and cooperative during this stage, as anything you say or do can be used against you later.

Initial Appearance

After the arrest and booking, the defendant (alleged perpetrator) is brought before a judge for an initial appearance, also known as an advisement hearing. During this hearing, the judge informs the defendant of their rights, including the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. Bail is also decided during this stage, which is the amount of money required for release from custody until the trial. The defendant will remain in jail until the trial if bail cannot be posted.

Pre-Trial Proceedings

In Colorado, pre-trial proceedings involve several steps that occur before the trial. These steps include:

  • Formal Charges: The prosecuting attorney reviews the evidence and decides whether to file formal charges against the defendant. The charges are outlined in a document called the complaint or information.
  • Arraignment: Arraignment is the formal reading of the charges to the defendant. The defendant is expected to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. It is crucial to consult a Breckenridge criminal defense attorney before entering a plea.
  • Discovery: Both the prosecution and defense exchange information and evidence related to the case. This includes police reports, witness statements, and any other relevant documents.
  • Motions: The defense may file various motions, such as a motion to suppress evidence or a motion to dismiss the case. The judge will review these motions and make decisions based on the arguments presented.
  • Plea Bargaining: Prosecutors and defense attorneys may engage in plea negotiations to resolve the case without going to trial. Plea bargains can result in reduced charges or sentencing recommendations.


If the case does not get resolved through a plea bargain, it proceeds to trial. The trial involves the presentation of evidence, examination of witnesses, and arguments from both the prosecution and the defense. In Colorado, criminal trials can be either jury or bench trials, where the judge decides the verdict. It is essential to have a skilled defense attorney who can present a strong case and protect your rights.

Sentencing and Appeals

If the defendant is found guilty at trial or pleads guilty, the next step is sentencing. The judge considers various factors, including the severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and any mitigating circumstances, in determining the appropriate punishment. After sentencing, individuals have the right to appeal their conviction or sentence if there are legal grounds for doing so.