Now that marijuana is legal in Colorado you feel like doing it any anytime, including while driving. That last batch you had might have had something extra in it, in fact. You feel on top of the world for a time, at least until the Colorado Springs police cruiser turns on his lights and pulls you over. The officer can tell you're nervous and asks you to step out of the car for field sobriety tests, but you can barely follow his instructions. The stop ends with the officer slapping handcuffs on your wrists. Getting into trouble with the law is embarrassing and confusing, but this article has information about what to expect in a typical Colorado Springs criminal case.
After you've been arrested you will probably be transported to either the Colorado Springs police department at 705 South Nevada Avenue or the Sheriff's Metro Detention Facility at 210 South Tejon Street. Once you arrive you will typically be "booked;" the jail staff will search you and confiscate your personal belongings until your release, ask about your biographical information and take your fingerprints before leading you to a cell. Sooner or later, you will be given an opportunity to make a telephone call, which you can use to contact someone you trust to post bail and arrange your release.
Search and Seizure
If you've been arrested, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is your new best friend. This amendment provides many of the essential protections citizens enjoy against police action. Specifically, it specifies that you cannot be detained, even temporarily, unless the police officer possesses a reasonable suspicion that you were committing a crime. Also, you cannot be arrested and your belongings cannot be searched, unless the officer has probable cause to believe that you are guilty of a crime.
These rules are important in a criminal case because of the so-called exclusionary rule. This rule provides that any evidence gathered in violation of someone's constitutional rights may be deemed inadmissible at trial to prove their guilt.
Custodial Interrogation and Miranda
Typically, after an arrest, a police officer will likely the defendant of their Miranda rights, which are:
- You have the right to remain silent;
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law;
- You have the right to an attorney;
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
Police generally must inform suspects in custody of these rights before any interrogation occurs. If this does not happen or if your rights are not respected, police and prosecutors may face consequences to their case against you in court later down the line.
Bail is a specific amount of money you deposit with the court as a promise to return to court when scheduled. If you pay your bail in full and make every scheduled court appearance, the money is returned to you when your case is over. If you cannot afford bail, many people turn to a local bail bonds company. Usually, you pay the bail bondsman 10% of the bail amount in exchange for a loan. Alternatively, if your crime is minor and the court doesn't consider you a flight risk, you may be released on your own personal recognizance.
Your first court appearance will likely be your arraignment. This and all future court appearances will probably take place at the El Paso County Courthouse at 270 South Tejon Street. At the arraignment the judge typically outlines the criminal charges against you and will ask you to enter a plea.
The judge may also ask if you'd like a Public Defender to be appointed to represent you. The Colorado State Public Defender only represents "indigent" clients, which means they are too poor to afford an attorney on their own. The Public Defender office in Colorado Springs is located at 19 North Tejon Street, but you can also call (719) 475-1235 or email them for more information.
Felony Preliminary Hearing
A "prelim" is basically a probable cause hearing for felony cases. There is no jury and a defense lawyer will probably not present any evidence at this hearing, but it is a good chance to see the strength of the prosecutor's evidence and probe their case for weakness. If the judge determines that the defendant more likely than not committed the crimes charged, they'll be held to answer and a trial date will be set.
In Colorado, you're entitled to a jury trial within six months of being charged. Both the defense attorney and the prosecutor will present their cases by offering witnesses and evidence. If the jury finds you guilty by unanimous vote, the judge will proceed to sentence you. If even one juror votes to acquit, the case results in a mistrial and you may be set free. It is possible, however, for prosecutors to refile a case after certain mistrials.
This information has covered what to expect, in very general terms, from a typical Colorado Springs criminal case. However, each case is very different from the next, and the circumstances of each individual vary similarly, as well. For information and advice specific to a case, it may be a good idea to contact a local criminal defense attorney or the public defender.