What to Expect if you have been arrested in Mesa County-By Andrew Peters Attorney at Law
Investigation and Arrest
It is your unlucky day. The police have just arrested you and now they want to get a statement from you. Or, perhaps, they are still investigation and have decided to come talk to you or invite you to the police station. What should you do?
The very first thing you should do is to ask to speak to a lawyer.
The police often make promises that they cannot or have no intention of delivering on. There is nothing illegal about this. Do not rely on promises of leniency or the line that is your civic duty to cooperate. If you are a suspect…..the police are not your friends. If the police are asking you questions…than you are a suspect. Tell them nothing. Ask for a lawyer and shut up. Do not pay attention to their threats. If you are going to be charged, it will be because of the evidence they have. If they have evidence, they will charge you. If they do not have evidence they will not. If you talk to them, the only evidence they ever get may be your own statement. Do not think that you can talk your way out it!
What if the police ask to search your, your bags, your car, or your house? Do you have to let them search? The answer is absolutely not! You have a Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Never give the police consent to search anything. If they are asking for your permission, most likely they do have enough to perform a search without your permission. Make the police obtain a search warrant.
If you are arrested, you will be “booked.” What this means is that you will be processed into the jail. You will be fingerprinted and photographed. Than you will be put in a holding cell until you make bond. Your bond amount may be set by schedule depending on the charges against you. Certain felonies and charges that are domestic violence related require that you be brought in front of a magistrate or judge, usually by video. The judge or magistrate may ask you if you have anything to say about bond. Never discuss the facts of the charges pending against you! This is neither the time nor the place for that. Anything you say will be used against you. Only discuss your lack of criminal history and ties to the community. The judge’s role at this stage is to set a bail bond amount and perhaps see if you need a court appointed attorney. Having an attorney at this stage can help get your bond lowered, saving you and your loved ones money.
You have the option of release on bond unless your alleged crime is such a violent one that no bond is to be set. Some murder charges and seriously violent crimes may have no bond at all. If your offense is relatively minor, you may be released on a personal recognizance bond, and if not you may been to find a bail bondsman who will charge a fixed percentage of the bail amounts as their fee for posting the bond. They are basically making you a loan to purchase your temporary release. If you fail to appear at court the bondsman loses his money and will come looking for you or your family’s assets to pay them back. Typically a bondsman will charge about ten to fifteen percent of the bail as their fee. you will not get his money back when your case is over. Try to find a bondsman who is trustworthy, has a good reputation in this community, and treats you fair.
Whether you bond out or not, you can expect to be brought before a judge again in the near future for something called an “arraignment.” If you are only charged with misdemeanors, you are likely to go to the “First Appearance Center” where you will receive a video tapped advisement by a judge. You will also be asked if you want to talk to a District Attorney about your case. If you want a court appointed attorney, you have to see the District Attorney. Beware! The District Attorney is not looking out for your best interests. The D.A. is your adversary-they are the ones prosecuting you. The D.A. is trying to get you to plead guilty. They will not tell you if your rights were violated. They will not tell you if you have any defenses. They will not tell you if you are being treated fair. Anything you say to the D.A. can be used against you. If you are charged with a felony, most likely you will go before a judge for what is known as “formal filing” of charges. This is a court appearance where the D.A. hands you and the judge a complaint which sets forth the actual charges against you. The judge will ask you if you need the complaint read to you and if you any further advisement on the charges. (We recommend if you can read to read the compliant yourself. Do not ask the judge to read it to you.) At this point the judge may set you case for a preliminary hearing or bind the case over to District Court.
If you are charged with a Class 1, 2 or 3 felony, if you are charged with a felony and can’t make bond, or you are charged with a felony that has a mandatory prison, you have a right to a Preliminary Hearing. A Preliminary Hearing is your chance to challenge the evidence and charges against you. There are time limits on requesting a Preliminary Hearing, you lose the right forever.
After the first court appearance, your case will probably be set for at least one more hearing date for you to decide whether or not to enter a plea bargain, or set for a Motion Hearing and Jury Trial.
Once you are charged (and sometimes before a preliminary hearing) you may be offered a plea bargain. You are not required to enter into any kind of plea bargain. Never take the first plea offer. You should never enter into any kind of agreement without talking to an attorney first. In a criminal case, you basically have two choices at any time. You and your attorney can negotiate and enter a plea bargain or you can set your case for trial and let a jury decided. An experienced attorney will know what the strengths and weaknesses of your case and can use that to work out the best deal for your case. The D.A. cannot make you accept a plea recommendation that you do not want. If you refuse the offer and cannot reach an agreement, than trial is your only alternative. Beware of dump truck lawyers. A dump truck lawyer is a lawyer who tries to get you to take the first off the D.A. makes. Dump truck lawyers are too scared or too lazy to challenge the D.A.’s evidence and fight for you. They never file motions to suppress or take cases to trial, they simply plead everything out. An experienced lawyer knows when to fight and when to deal.
Trial in criminal cases is different than trials in civil cases. The prosecutor generally goes first in jury selection, opening statement, presenting witnesses and closing argument. The prosecutor gets to do their closing argument first and last. You do not have to testify at trial. You have a 5th Amendment right to not testify. Sometimes this is important If you have a lot of prior convictions and then testify, the prosecutor will get to talk to the jury about a lot of those prior offenses. If you do not testify, than the jury may never hear about those prior offenses. In the context of a jury trial many jurors tend to believe that where there is smoke there is a fire.
This may mean that if they hear about other offenses of your they may be more likely to accept the prosecutor’s version of the case and that you are guilty of committing the crime you are charged with. In many instances it can be better not to testify if you have a prior criminal record.
If the jury finds you not guilty than yo go home a free person. If they find you guilty you will have to be sentenced. In misdemeanor cases you will sometimes go to immediate sentencing. In most felony cases and some misdemeanors cases, sentencing will be set over thirty to sixty days. During that time you may be required to get a Pre-Sentence Report. A Pre-Sentencing report id done by the probation Department where they conduct an investigation of you and your past criminal, work , family, substance abuse, and mental health history. Probation then makes recommendations to the judge on what your sentence should be. A good attorney can present evidence, mitigate and argue why you should get a lenient sentence. In Colorado the judge determines the punishment in the even of a conviction. Possible consequence of a conviction are incarceration in prison, incarceration in the Mesa County Jail, Work Release, probation, and fines, are just a few of the possibilities.
Court Appointed Attorneys
In order to be appointed an attorney you will be asked to show evidence that you are indigent and cannot afford one. If you are charged with only misdemeanors, you will first have to talk to the D.A. about your case. If you are unable to make bond, usually the judge will appoint the Public Defender to represent you. Public Defenders are staff attorneys paid by the State of Colorado to represent indigent people. They carry massive case loads, sometimes four to six times the case load that a private attorney might have. They rarely have time to give you the individual attention your case deserves.
In a nutshell, this is what you can expect from the criminal justice system. There may be some procedural differences depending upon your individual charges. Most court procedures are geared toward intimidating you into entering a plea bargain. Large crowds will be at virtually every hearing. Prosecutors and court personnel will be pushing people through like a herd of cattle. The object is to dispose of cases as quickly as possible. A good attorney will throw a wrench in their works by establishing early that your case will not be quickly disposed of and that you will not be taking whatever they feel like offering. The earlier in the process you hire an attorney the better. Find a good attorney, an experienced attorney, an attorney that will fight for you.
Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.
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