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What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
Colorado state law divides all crimes into either one of two categories. Relatively
minor offenses are classified as misdemeanors, whereas more serious crimes
are listed as felonies. Crimes such as first-time
DUI and minor theft offenses are charged as misdemeanors, while felonies include
crimes such as robbery,
drug trafficking, rape, and murder.
What penalties can I receive if I am convicted?
sentence available for different types of crimes depends on the specific
offense and the severity of the crime. Generally, however, a sentence will include steep fines ranging into
the hundreds or thousands of dollars, as well as time in county jail or
state prison. If you are placed on
probation, you can expect to be ordered to pay large fines in addition to costs
for things such as drug or alcohol treatment, anger management counseling
and perhaps an
ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Even after the completion of your sentence, you would
face a future of living with a criminal record that could prevent you
from finding suitable housing or employment.
Will my case go to trial?
Colorado citizens have a right to a trial by a jury of their peers, and during
this trial they are legally presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
The burden of proof in a criminal trial is on the
prosecutor, meaning that it is necessary for the state to prove that you committed
the crime. Fewer than 10 percent of criminal cases nationwide do go to
trial, however, and the reasons for this are many. For one thing, prosecutors
often pile on the charges and seek the toughest available penalty in an
attempt to intimidate the defendant into pleading guilty. They do this
in large part because the state has limited resources for trying defendants,
and the courts are already overloaded with cases.
Most people who are charged with a crime will eagerly accept a
plea bargain in hopes of sparing themselves the harsh consequences of a conviction,
but this is often a mistake. By taking the case to trial, it is very often
possible to win. Even if the case does not proceed to trial, preparing
it for this outcome increases the likelihood that the prosecutor will
be willing to drop the charges or to make an
offer of deferred judgment, which allows the defendant to avoid a conviction by completing terms
similar to probation.
What is a "plea bargain?"
As mentioned above, more than
90 percent of
criminal cases are resolved prior to trial. A large percentage of these cases end in plea bargains. In a
plea bargain, the defendant agrees to enter a guilty plea, which results in a conviction
on the charges. This benefits the prosecutor, because the state is not
required to carry out a full jury trial in order to secure a conviction.
In exchange, the prosecutor agrees to reduce the charges in the case,
or offers a lighter sentence or alternative sentencing regimen.
In the event that it is simply not possible to prove your innocence, a
plea bargain may be the best available outcome to your case. Similar to a
plea bargain is a
deferred judgment. In this outcome, you initially enter a plea of guilty, after which you
are ordered to complete some type of probationary terms such as paying
restitution or attending classes or counseling. Upon your successful completion
of these terms, the judge will then withdraw your guilty plea and dismiss the
What does it mean to "plead the Fifth?"
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution secures your right against self-incrimination. You cannot legally be compelled
to testify against yourself in criminal proceedings. This includes testifying
during a trial, as well as
speaking with police officers and detectives during the course of an investigation. Pleading the Fifth means invoking your
right to remain silent, and it is something that you should do at all times. Law enforcement
officers are trained to lead suspects into making self-incriminating statements
and drawing out confessions.
Even seemingly innocent statements could end up being used against you
as evidence. Before you agree to speak about the case, politely insist
on having your
criminal defense lawyer present to advise you of what questions you should and should not answer. The
Fifth Amendment and other aspects of the constitution provide you with
powerful legal protections, but they will do nothing for you unless you know how to use them. Let
the team at
The Evans Firm guide you through this situation and fight to protect your rights at every
stage of the case.
Contact us today or get a
free case evaluation!
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