The purpose of criminal procedure in Colorado is to provide for just how a criminal case is resolved. It is designed to secure simplicity in procedure, fairness in administration, the elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay, the effective apprehension and trial of persons accused of crimes, the just determination of every criminal proceeding by a fair and impartial trial, an adequate review, and the preservation of the public welfare and the fundamental human rights of individuals. Both the Colorado Code of Criminal Procedure and the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure govern how criminal cases are handled.
These are some of the more common terms one might come across when reviewing Colorado criminal procedure:
In Colorado, arraignment means the formal act of calling a defendant into open court, informing him of the offense with which he is charged, and the entry of a plea to the charge. It is the opportunity for a defendant to either admit guilt (either to the original or a reduced charge) or deny guilt and proceed to jury trial. Presence of the defendant is required at arraignment, except in limited circumstances.
A bond in Colorado criminal procedure means a bail bond. A bail bond is a formal promise, with or without sureties or security, entered into by a person in custody by which he binds himself to comply with the conditions of the promise and in default of such compliance to pay the amount of bail or other sum fixed, if any, in the bond. If a defendant promises to comply with the conditions of the bond, then he can be released from custody until final determination of the case. There are personal reckogninance bonds and secured bonds. Bonds can be secured by either cash, real property located within Colorado, or by surety.
Discovery is one of a defendant’s most useful tools. The government’s lawyer must make available to the defendant all materials and information concerning:
- police, arrest and crime or offense reports, including statements of all witnesses;
- reports or statements of experts made in connection with the particular case, including results of examinations and of scientific tests, experiments, or comparisons;
- books, papers, documents, photographs, or tangible objects held as evidence in connection with the case;
- records of prior criminal convictions of the defendant, any codefendant, or any person the prosecutor intends to call as a witness in the case;
- tapes and transcripts of any electronic surveillance of conversations involving the accused, any codefendant, or witness in the case;
- a written list of the names and addresses of the witnesses then known to the government whom they intend to call at trial;
- written or recorded statements of the defendant, and the substance of any oral statements made to the police or prosecution by the defendant.
The resolving of a criminal case without a trial; it is also known as a plea bargain. When a defendant and the prosecutor reach an agreement on how to resolve a case before trial, they appear before a judge who determines if the agreement is in the best interests of justice.
A motion is an written application to a court for an order, stating with particularity the grounds therefor, and shall set forth the relief or order sought. It is when one asks a court to allow, or to prevent another party from, doing something. Attorneys are judged by other attorneys on the quality, volume, and creativity of their motions.
If a trial is likely to be protracted or otherwise unusually complicated, or if requested by agreement of the parties, a trial court may hold one or more pretrial conferences, with trial counsel present, to consider such matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial. Generally discussed at pretrial conferences are stipulations, waivers of foundation, severance (of either defendants or offenses), voir dire, peremptory challenges, and other procedural matters.
If a defendant is not successful at trial, or pleads guilty, the final step is a sentencing hearing. It is where a judge hears argument from both the prosecution and defense, as well as victims and defense character witnesses. Before imposing sentence, the court will allow the defendant an opportunity to make a statement in his or her own behalf, and to present any information in mitigation of punishment. The prosecution also shall be given an opportunity to be heard on any matter material to the imposition of sentence.
When one thinks of court, one normally thinks of a trial. It is when a finder of fact (either a judge or jury) hears evidence and argument, and comes to a determination as to whether or not the prosecution has met its burden.