There are two ways a case can start. The police officer can place the person on investigative hold or they can direct file the case with the Court. The following describes what happens in both situations.
The police arrest someone and write a report. This report summarizes the events leading up to the arrest and provides witness names and other relevant information.
A prosecutor then decides whether to file charges and, if so, what charges to file. The prosecutor decides whether to charge the crime as a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor can file charges on all the crimes for which the police arrested the defendant, or can decide to file fewer charges or more charges than were included in the arrest report.
Because defendants have a right to a speedy trial, the prosecutor must generally file charges within 72 hours of the first advisement when the defendant is in custody.
The first hearings after arrest will be:
This is the first time the arrested defendant is brought to court. During this hearing, the Judge will advise the defendant that they are under “investigation”. This means the prosecutor has not filed charges yet. The Judge will advise the defendant what crime they are being investigated for committing. Bond will be set, except for cases involving investigations of homicides.
This occurs after the prosecutor files charges. During this hearing, the Judge will advise the defendant what crime or crimes they are charged with committing. The Judge may also hear arguments to reduce bond.
A hearing in which the defendant may ask the Court to reduce the set amount of bond. Bond is an amount of money which is required to get out of jail and acts as a guarantee that the defendant will appear in court as ordered. The bond will remain in force until the case is resolved. The posting of bond does not mean the case is over. You cannot pay to have a criminal case dismissed or thrown out. If the defendant does not come to court after posting bond, the bond will be forfeited and the defendant will be arrested.
For cases involving felony charges a Preliminary Hearing is scheduled:
At this hearing, the prosecutor will be required to present sufficient evidence to prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the crime or crimes he or she is charged with committing. The prosecutor is not required to put on all of their evidence or even the testimony of the victim. The Court will allow statements of witnesses to come into evidence through a detective or other police officer. The defendant will not testify. With few exceptions, only persons charged with a class 1, 2, or 3 felony, or who are in jail on a class 4, 5, or 6 felony, are entitled to this hearing. Any person may waive the right to a preliminary hearing. Waiving the hearing is not unusual and is done to keep open a plea bargain. By waiving a preliminary hearing, the defendant does not waive any other of his or her rights.
After hearing, if the Judge decides sufficient evidence exists, the case will be bound over to District Court for arraignment. For more information on felony cases, refer to www.courts.state.co.us.
The police officer serves someone with a summons and complaint and writes a report. The report summarizes the events leading up to the summons and complaint and provides witnesses names and other relevant information. The police officer files the summons and complaint and report with the Court. The first appearance of the defendant will be an Arraignment and the court date is listed on the summons and complaint.