Colorado
Criminal Law

 

Whether you are facing criminal charges for the first time, or you have been through this process before, it is important that your criminal case be handled successfully. Whether you are trying to keep a spotless record clean, or trying to avoid a prison sentence, there is much at stake. Generally, the more serious the offense, the more likely that even a first conviction could result in jail or prison. This is especially true if the defendant has a prior criminal record. For more information about the possible penalties that could result from your charge, please

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Regardless of what charge you are facing, your criminal attorney must analyze the evidence against you, and develop any defense evidence you might have, in order to accurately tell you whether you will likely be convicted or not at trial. Routinely, people are falsely accused of crimes. Naturally in such a case, your attorney's goal will be to have your case dismissed, and in the alternative to win your case at trial. In other cases, the District Attorney's case will be unbeatable, and the evidence against you overwhelming, in which case you will probably need an effectively negotiated plea agreement. In still other cases, it will be "shades of grey," and the potential outcome at a trial of your case will be uncertain.

 

Thus, a crucial part of effective representation is to help the accused decide whether a jury trial or a plea agreement is the best route to the end of the case. The stronger your defense case, the stronger your negotiating position is with the District Attorney before trial. More importantly, in cases where the accused is at great risk of losing based on the evidence, effective representation can often "control the damage" by getting the DA to agree to a reasonable outcome.

 

When your Cordova Law Firm criminal attorney helps you to decide whether the District Attorney has a strong chance of proving you guilty, he must consider how the evidence in your case measures up against the legal "elements" of that offense - as they appear in the law books. Regardless of the charge you are facing in Colorado, the DA must prove each of several different elements. In all cases, the first elements are the same:

 

  1. That you (not someone else),

  2. In the County of Chaffee (for example), State of Colorado,

  3. On the date and place charged,

  4. The elements that follow these are the ones that are unique to the crime you have been charged with. For a hypothetical example, in a Harassment case, the other elements may include:

  • With the intent to annoy, harass, or alarm,

  • Struck, shoved, or kicked (the victim),

 

If the District Attorney, in this hypothetical example, fails to prove any single element to the jury, then the jury must find the defendant not guilty. Your attorney may attack some or all of these elements during trial. In the example above, your defense may be that yes, you struck the person, but it was in self-defense, and therefore it was not your intent to "annoy, harass, or alarm" the person. (*This example is hypothetical and in no way reflects an actual case, and other elements will likely apply)

 

The approach is the same regardless of the criminal charge. Sometimes the elements are provable, and sometimes one or more are not. An experienced Southern Colorado criminal defense lawyer will be able to spot where the District Attorney's weak spots are, and develop the best possible attack to them. As mentioned above, forecasting what will happen in court ahead of time can prevent unwanted results. If your attorney sees a dead end for your defense case ahead, you may be able to avoid serious punishment. On the other hand, in cases where the District Attorney is making an unreasonable offer and / or you have a strong defense case, trial is likely going to be your best option.

 

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Arrest Advice

DO'S and DON'TS

 

If you are arrested, or if you are approached and questioned by police or detectives:

 

  • Don't Talk - Make no statements regarding the crime being investigated. Even if you feel intimidated, remember, you have an absolute RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT! You are required to give your name, address, and other identifying information. Don't say anything outside of this. Statements you make might seem harmless at the time, but can be very damaging later if they conflict with other evidence.

 

  • Remember that police can lie to you. They may tell you that they "already know that you did it", or that your friend "already admitted that he - and you - did the crime". Don't be fooled, remain silent.

 

  • Remember that a detective, even a police captain, has no legal power to make you a promise regarding your prosecution, or a "good deal if you cooperate". Only a District Attorney or a U.S. Attorney has that power.

 

  • If you are jailed, do not discuss anything over the telephone as it may be recorded, and do not discuss the case or any information with other inmates. Prisoners often inform on each other in exchange for a deal from the prosecutor(s).

 

  • Remember that police cannot search your home or apartment unless you give them CONSENT (or they have a search warrant in which case you have no choice). You do not have to give them consent, and shouldn't. Again, don't be intimidated.

 

  • Don't fall for an attempt to get you to divulge information over the phone. For example, the alleged victim in your case may call and say, "Why did you do that (crime)?" Don't answer and hang up. Watch out for the same thing from co-defendants (others charged also), as they may have "flipped", and are now working in concert with the prosecution.

 

  • Don't Run From Police! While the police can never testify to a jury that you wouldn't speak to them, they can tell a jury that you ran from them. This means of course, running in the literal sense, but it also means moving out of state, or taking other measures to avoid their contact with you. Running is considered to show "consciousness of guilt," and you will be adding to the prosecutor's evidence against you if you do it.

 

  • Don't Be Offensive! There is nothing to be gained from being rude or offensive to the police, even if you are being unfairly arrested. Your conduct will be reported by the police in their report, and the judge that handles your case will likely hear about it later. It is best to silently comply with any arrest, and let your attorney handle the defense of your case later.

 

  • Retain a Denver criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Constitutional Rights

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All people in the United States have a right to be free from unreasonable searches by the government. This means that neither the police, nor anyone acting on behalf of the government, is allowed to search you, your home, your car, or any other place where you have a right to expect privacy. However, there are exceptions under the law. These exceptions allow the police to search when they have "probable cause" for example.

 

A criminal lawyer must evaluate the decisions made and the steps taken by the police officersinvolved in a criminal case. If the police broke any of the rules, namely your Constitutional rights, then they are not allowed the use the illegally obtained evidence against you. Many people argue that the system is unfair, since someone who is actually guilty may be set free due to a "technicality." However, this sort of thinking fails to recognize just how important it is that the police can't break down your door in the middle of the night just because they feel like it. TheSupreme Court of the United States has decided long ago that protecting our freedom from the power of the government is just as important as prosecuting those that are guilty of crimes.

 

The decisions the Supreme Court has made, in case after case throughout history, have molded our laws regarding what is considered proper, or improper, police investigation. Criminal defense lawyers must be well versed in these Constitutional laws in order to effectively defend a criminal case. It may be that your lawyer will never even have to talk about the evidence, if he can instead show that there should be no evidence to begin with. The evidence may be suppressed if it was obtained illegally, and your case could be thrown out. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution are the amendments involved in all criminal matters.

 

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution

The Fourth Amendment states "The right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized."

 

  • You have a right not to be searched without a legally valid reason. You are allowed under the Constitution to refuse to consent to a police search. If the police search you, even without your consent, the Constitution requires the police to be able to show a judge, in court, why they had "probable cause" to believe that you had committed, or were about to commit, a crime (or possessed evidence, etc.).

 

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution

The Fifth Amendment states, in part, "...(no person) shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." The Fifth Amendment also prohibits Double Jeopardy. 

 

  • You have a right to remain silent. The government cannot force you to speak. You are protected from having to incriminate yourself by answering questions. If the police force you to answer them, they cannot use your statements against you. They must tell you that you have a right to remain silent before they ask you any questions (but this only applies after they arrest you).

 

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution

The Sixth Amendment states, in part, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury...and informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

 

  • You have a right to be represented by an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the court must give you one for free. If the police are interrogating you, and you ask for an attorney, they are required to stop all questioning immediately. If the police continue to question you after you ask for an attorney, then all statements you made from that point on cannot be used against you later in your case.