Any time you have to go to court, it can be an unnerving or frightening experience. Criminal court is intimidating, and it can feel like everyone else involved knows exactly what they’re doing while you’re still trying to understand what’s going on.
The Denver criminal court system has its own unique features, and knowing a bit about how things work can make your first in-court experience a little easier.
Cases start in county court
If you’ve been charged with only a misdemeanor, your case will start in the Denver County Court. In nearly all cases, it won’t go any further than this court. If you have been charged with a felony, your case may begin in the county court, but if the judge feels there is enough evidence against you, the case will be sent on to the Denver District Court.
If the charge is very serious, it will probably go straight to the district court. Any grand jury indictments also go to this court. If you are being charged with both a misdemeanor and a felony, and the case goes to the District Court, then all charges will be dealt with there.
Who brings the case?
Criminal court cases in Denver are the responsibility of the District Attorney and the City Attorney. If you aren’t sure which office is dealing with your case, you should ask your Denver criminal attorney for more information or check your case number.
The City Attorney assigns case numbers that start with the year, then the letters D, GS, or GV following by a series of numbers. The District Attorney’s office also begins case numbers with the year and ends them with a series of numbers, but the letters in the middle will be M, CR, or JD.
Every year, people all over the United States attempt to defend themselves in court. This almost never goes well. If you defend yourself, you will be expected to know and do everything that a lawyer would. This means not only fully understanding the law, but also how the court system works.
For anything other than a simple traffic violation or minor misdemeanor, you need a criminal attorney if you hope to win your case. You need someone familiar with the Denver courts in particular and someone with plenty of experience in criminal law.
What will happen?
Arraignment: The first step will be your arraignment. The judge reads the charges and you plead guilty or not guilty. The judge then assesses the prosecution’s case and decide if there is enough evidence to move forward.
If the case is going on, and if no bail was set when you were arrested, the judge sets bailat your arraignment. This is a chance for you to ask for a lower bail and give your reasons for doing so.
Trial: If your case is not dismissed, then it goes to trial. First, the judge, your lawyer, and the lawyer for the prosecution choose a jury from a pool people called up out of the community.
The prosecution presents their case first, and they can call witnesses against you or present evidence. Your lawyer is allowed to ask questions of their witnesses. Once the prosecution is finished, your lawyer presents your defense. Then both sides make final arguments.
Decision: In a jury trial, the judge instructs the jury about their duty, and then the jury retires to make a decision about the evidence. Once they finish, everyone returns to the courtroom to hear their decision. You may be found not guilty, guilty, or guilty of some charges and not guilty of others.
If you are found guilty, the judge sentences you at a later date. Certain crimes have mandatory sentences, so the judge only has some flexibility in setting the sentence. Mitigating circumstances can also affect the outcome.
There is more to a criminal case, so the smart move is to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible so you can get started defending yourself.