are the Top Criminal Trial Law Defense Attorneys in Colorado. Our firm has 30 years of experience as criminal defense attorneys experienced as prosecutors, defense counsel and judges. Our lawyers have been on both of sides of the legal system and that gives us insight into how to best defend your criminal law case. This wide range of legal work includes U.S. District Courts, State District and County Courts, Municipal Courts and Military Courts Martial.
We are the most experienced criminal defense attorneys in the Denver metropolitan area with extensive practice in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Boulder, Weld and Elbert County and District Courts. As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, our federal criminal defense practice has been consistently recognized as “Denver’s Best Criminal Defense Lawyers.”
There are numerous Courts and law enforcement agencies in Colorado responsible for cases involving violations of criminal statutes and ordinances. The police force, sheriffs department or federal agency investigating an alleged crime will have an impact on what is charged and where you will be prosecuted. For example, if the Aurora Police investigate a the case will likely be heard in the Aurora Municipal Court. If the Arapahoe County Sheriff investigates the same incident, the case will be brought in Arapahoe County Court. If the same domestic violence charge resulted in serious bodily injury, the case would be brought in Arapahoe District Court.
In Colorado, crimes are classified as felonies or misdemeanors. Felonies are criminal offenses with penalties that could result in a prison sentence. Although not all felonies result in a sentence to prison, all felonies expose a person to the possibility of prison. The Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) is responsible for the prison population in Colorado.
Felonies in Colorado are classified into six categories. The most serious offences such as murder are classified as class 1 felonies and carry a life sentence or the death penalty. The least serious felony offences are classified as class 6 felonies and carry a potential prison sentence of 1-4 years in prison. Each classification of felony has a presumptive sentencing range. Those same classifications have a greater sentencing range for “extraordinary risk” crimes that normally encompass crimes of violence or vulnerable victims. Likewise, the presumptive range can be increased based on exceptional circumstances. This would include committing a new crime while on probation for an earlier offense.
Misdemeanors can carry up to two years in a county jail. Some misdemeanors involve only the possibility of a fine. Misdemeanors are classified into three categories with a class 1 misdemeanor being the most serious offense.
Felony offences are handled in district court. District courts may encompass several counties. For example, the 1st Judicial District in Golden, Colorado is responsible for Jefferson County and Gilpin County. The 18th Judicial District includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties. District courts handle the most serious offences.
County courts handle only misdemeanor criminal cases. This includes driving under the influence charges and domestic violence charges. County court judges also handle the initial advisement of rights, setting of bonds and preliminary hearings at the initial stages of a felony case.
Whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor, at your first appearance in court you will be informed of the charges against you and advised of your constitutional rights. If you are in custody, the court will set bond. Your next appearance is generally a pretrial conference where your attorney will have the opportunity to discuss the case with the prosecutor. If you are charged with a class 1, 2 or 3 felony or remain in custody for any felony offense you are entitled to a preliminary hearing. If you don’t reach a plea agreement with the prosecution at the pretrial conference, you will enter a not guilty plea at a hearing called an arraignment and your case must be set for trial within six months.
Municipal Courts are limited to handling misdemeanor offences. Municipal Courts prosecute city ordinance violations that mirror state criminal misdemeanor statutes. The City Attorney prosecutes cases in municipal court. The city police are usually responsible for investigating cases brought in Municipal Court. If you are charged with an offense in Denver, your case is in Municipal Court if the ticket has “GS” listed in front of the summons number. The rules for Municipal Court are different than county or district court. In addition, speedy trial is only three months.
The United States District Court for the District of Colorado is responsible for criminal cases brought for violations of United States statutes that occur in Colorado. Frequently, these involve very serious crimes although misdemeanors may be prosecuted if the offense occurs on federal property such as a military base. Federal crimes usually involve interstate commerce or have been found to effect interstate commerce. This would include drug offences.
Federal charges are brought by a grand jury indictment. The United States attorney presents evidence to the grand jury that has very broad powers to investigate crimes and subpoena witnesses. Federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA and ATF investigate most federal crimes although local law enforcement may work on the case as part of a federal task force.
Federal Courts have their own unique procedures. Initial rights advisements and the arraignment are carried out by United States Magistrate Judges. Thereafter, the case goes before a United States District Court Judge appointed by the President. Speedy trial in federal court is only 70 days but is often extended for complex cases. Sentencing includes a calculation under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Our Criminal Defense practice includes the following areas:
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