Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Collins, Colorado
We've all likely watched courtroom dramas on television, whether real or fictional and witnessed the prosecution and defense countering each other's arguments and evidence. Then, the judge instructs the jury on the applicable laws and admissible evidence, and the 12-member "jury of your peers" deliberates to reach a verdict, or sometimes they can't agree, resulting in a "hung" jury.
In any case, it's entertaining to watch when you're not the one on trial for a criminal offense. When you find yourself in that situation, it can be a nerve-wracking experience filled with stress and uncertainty. Questions like, "Will I be acquitted or sent to jail?" dominate your thoughts, and often, your fate hinges largely on the effectiveness of your defense team.
Consider this backdrop: Crime in Colorado is a significant concern. A report by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) identified Colorado as the most prone to violent crime among the 22 most populous states.
What to Do If You Face an Investigation or Charges?
If you or a loved one is under investigation or facing criminal charges in or around Fort Collins, Colorado, don't hesitate to reach out to The Leier Law Office LLC. Our criminal defense attorney brings the unique perspective of a former prosecutor, allowing us to anticipate prosecutorial strategies and effectively counter them. Moreover, our dedicated legal team is available virtually 24/7, committed to safeguarding your future.
The Leier Law Office LLC proudly serves clients not only in Fort Collins but also in neighboring communities such as Loveland, Greeley, Windsor, and Evans.
Don’t Face the Law Alone
Understanding Criminal Charges in Colorado
Criminal charges in Colorado primarily fall into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less severe and carry sentences of up to 364 days in a county jail. Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious and can result in lengthy prison terms. There are also traffic violations, which are generally infractions and misdemeanors, not felonies.
Misdemeanors in Colorado
Misdemeanors in Colorado are further categorized into three general types: regular misdemeanors, drug-related misdemeanors, and traffic misdemeanors. Within each category, misdemeanors can be further classified as class 1 or 2, or level 1 or 2.
Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious, potentially resulting in up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Examples include unlawful sexual conduct, theft of property valued between $1,000 and $2,000, and repeated violations of protective orders.
Class 2 misdemeanors may lead to up to 120 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750. Offenses include criminal trespassing, theft of property valued between $300 and $1,000, and invasion of privacy.
Level 1 drug misdemeanors carry sentences of 12 to 18 months behind bars and/or fines ranging from $500 to $5,000, with alternatives like probation and shorter jail terms. Level 2 drug misdemeanors may result in up to 364 days in jail and/or fines between $50 and $750.
Traffic misdemeanors are divided into class 1 and class 2, with varying penalties ranging from 10 to 364 days in jail and/or fines of $300 to $1,000 (class 1) and 10 to 90 days in jail and/or fines of $150 to $300 (class 2). Offenses include actions such as driving while texting (class 1) and reckless driving (class 2).
Felonies in Colorado
Colorado abolished the death penalty in 2020, but life imprisonment remains a possibility. The state employs two felony structures, one for drug offenses and another for all other felonies. The law establishes presumptive minimum and maximum sentences for incarceration and mandates parole terms, with judges typically adhering to these structures.
There are six classes of non-drug felonies in Colorado:
Class 1 felonies are the most severe and can lead to life imprisonment. Examples include murder, first-degree kidnapping, and treason.
Class 2 felonies can result in 8 to 48 years in prison and fines ranging from $5,000 to $1 million, primarily for violent crimes like first-degree assault. Parole can vary from three to five years.
Class 3 felonies encompass offenses such as first-degree arson, first-degree burglary, aggravated assault, and sex trafficking. Penalties range from 4 to 32 years in prison, with parole terms of three to five years and fines from $3,000 to $750,000.
Class 4, 5, and 6 felonies hinge on the presence or absence of violence and can result in prison terms of 18 months to 16 years, fines from $1,000 to $500,000, and parole terms of up to three years. Examples include stalking, forgery, extortion, and invasion of privacy. Class 6 felonies involve the least severe presumptive sentencing.
Felonies Related to Drug Offenses in Colorado
While Colorado permits recreational marijuana use, it continues to enforce drug laws concerning the illegal manufacturing, distribution, and sale of controlled substances. Felonies associated with drug offenses are categorized from level 1 to level 4, with level 1 being the most severe. Penalties can range from 6 months in jail (level 4) to 32 years in prison (level 1) and fines from $1,000 to $1 million.
Understanding the Court System
Charges can be brought by a grand jury, a prosecutor, or, in certain cases, by police officers. When you are brought in for questioning, the criminal process begins, and your rights must be respected. Authorities are obligated to read you your Miranda Rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to consult with a criminal defense attorney. If they fail to do so, anything you say cannot be used against you in court. It is essential to remain silent during questioning and consult with an attorney before making any statements.
Another potential violation of your rights can occur if officials conduct an illegal search and/or seizure. Typically, a search must be conducted with a warrant obtained from a judge, although warrantless searches may be legal, especially if they occur at the time of a crime being observed.
If you are charged, preliminary hearings will take place. The initial hearing will determine whether you are eligible for bail, release on your recognizance, or if you must remain in custody due to flight risk or being considered too dangerous for release. A subsequent hearing will involve a judge reading the charges against you and asking for your plea—guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A no contest plea is treated as a guilty plea, leading to sentencing.
In the case of a not guilty plea, you and your defense team have the right to access the prosecution's evidence, allowing you to prepare for trial. During this phase, your legal team may file motions to challenge certain evidence or testimony, seeking its exclusion from the trial proceedings.
Throughout this process, your defense attorney may also engage in negotiations with prosecutors, aiming for a reduced charge, a plea agreement, or even the dismissal of charges due to insufficient evidence. This underscores the importance of retaining a defense counsel from the outset to ensure your rights are protected and to avoid any undue advantage by the authorities.
Appealing a Verdict
If you are found guilty, there is always the possibility of an appeal to a higher court. However, appeals must be based on errors or mistakes made during the original trial. You cannot introduce new evidence or call new witnesses. The appellate court will review the proceedings of your trial to determine if your rights were violated or if errors or prejudicial treatment occurred. Even if you believe you are guilty, it is essential to require the prosecution to prove your guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Collins, Colorado
A skilled criminal defense attorney will scrutinize the evidence and testimony presented by prosecutors, casting doubt in the minds of the jury. Your attorney will also vigorously defend your rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
For those in Fort Collins and the surrounding areas, you can rely on The Leier Law Office LLC to mount your defense and safeguard your rights. Feel free to reach out for a free consultation if you are facing an investigation or criminal charges.