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Mark S. Hanchey

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A Typical Colorado Misdemeanor Case Timeline

A Typical Colorado Misdemeanor Case Timeline

Colorado divides its misdemeanor offenses into three separate categories, classes I, II and III. Class I offenses are the most serious and involve possible sentences of twelve months in the County jail. However, many Class I misdemeanors have been designated “extraordinary risk” crimes and carry with them the possibility of up to two years in jail. Among the extraordinary risk crimes is, for instance, Third Degree Assault. This offense alleges physical contact which causes injury, even if the injury involves only physical pain on the part of the victim. This is a very common charge filed in Colorado and many Defendants are surprised to learn that they face the possibility of twenty four months in jail due to a simple fistfight or shoving match.

Most misdemeanor charges begin with the Investigative Law Enforcement Officer serving a Summons and Complaint on the Defendant. This Summons and Complaint must allege the crime charged, the date it allegedly occurred, and the date and location of the first Court appearance.

Normally the First Appearance date will be between one and two months after the date the Summons and Complaint is served on the Defendant. This delay is largely due to the congestion of the County Court system, statewide.

A misdemeanor Defendant may also be arrested at the moment of being served the Summons and Complaint. This is especially true in Domestic Violence cases. If an arrest occurs, the Defendant will be brought in front of a Magistrate “without unnecessary delay”. The Magistrate or County Court Judge will advise the Defendant as to the charges, possible penalties, and next Court date. If the Defendant was initially taken into custody, the next Court date given him by the Judge at the Advisement Hearing will trump the date given him on the face of the Summons and Complaint itself. The Judge will also set bond at this Advisement Hearing.

Once the Defendant bonds out (or if he was never taken into custody in the first place) it may or may not be necessary that he physically appear at each and every future Court date. This is in stark contrast to cases involving felony charges which mandate the physical appearance of the Defendant at every Court appearance. I have, for instance, managed many misdemeanor cases for out-of-state clients as well as deployed Service Members in such a way that they have never had to physically appear a single time in a Colorado courtroom. Furthermore, each jurisdiction has slightly different rules regarding mandatory vs. discretionary Court appearances by a Defendant on misdemeanor cases. Sometimes those rules vary from Judge to Judge in the very same Courthouse. An experienced attorney can help prepare you for whether you will need to miss work or otherwise arrange for the necessity of appearing for your next misdemeanor Court date.

After the initial Advisement or the First Appearance on the face of the Summons and Complaint, a Colorado misdemeanor matter is normally reset for a Pretrial Conference. As the title indicates, this Court session is meant to give your attorney an opportunity to sit down with the County Court District Attorney and have a discussion with him or her in the hope of resolving your case without the need for a Trial. This Pretrial Conference will usually be within a month or two from the initial date on the Summons and Complaint or the initial Advisement for those who were taken into custody.

Ideally, by that time, your attorney will have received the police report (called the Discovery) pertaining to the case and will have reviewed it with you prior to that Pretrial Conference. He may also have conducted his own investigation or witness interviews in preparation of sitting down with the prosecutor at this first Pretrial Conference.

If a Plea Agreement is reached at this initial Pretrial Conference the case may well be finalized at this hearing. If an agreement between the parties is not reached, the parties may agree to reset the case for another Pretrial Conference if they feel further discussions may yet yield fruit. If not, the case will be scheduled for either a potential Dispositional date or for Trial. Again, this future date will likely be around thirty days out if it involves a potential Dispositional date. If the case is set for Trial it must be scheduled within six months of your Not Guilty plea being entered. The Trial may be set as soon as forty-five days out, depending on the jurisdiction and how busy the Court’s docket is at that moment.

A misdemeanor Trial can involve either a Jury or a Judge alone. If the Judge tries the case all by herself then she alone decides if the Defendant is guilty or not guilty and, if the Defendant is found guilty, she alone decides the appropriate sentence. If a Jury Trial occurs, the Jury decides the issue of guilt and the Judge will then decide the appropriate sentence if the Jury returns a finding of guilty. An important difference between misdemeanor and felony cases is that misdemeanors involve only six jurors while felonies involve twelve. However, misdemeanor verdicts must be unanimous one way or the other, just like in felony cases.

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