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What Happens When You Are Charged with a Crime? — Part I

Generally speaking, when people come to see me for the first time on a criminal case, I walk them through my “Criminal 101.” This is basically an overview of your options, your rights, and how we will move forward, if you decide that I am the best attorney to represent you.

My first consultation is complimentary. We don’t cover the specific facts of your case during this consultation because, if you choose not to hire me, it’s a waste of both our time. Instead, we look at three important options from which you need to choose: Whether you will decide to represent yourself, apply for a public defender, or hire a private attorney.

You Can Represent Yourself in a Criminal Case

The biggest problem with representing yourself in a criminal case is that you don’t know the law. Another issue is that when you represent yourself, the DA likely won’t take you as seriously — and is unlikely to give you the best offer.

For example, I once represented a woman who was very bright. She had been pulled over for a DWAI and asked to take a chemical test. She said no, and the police took her to the station. When they got there, she changed her mind, and said, “Okay, I’ll take a chemical test.”

The cop responded, “You don’t get to change your mind.” Well, that’s contrary to Colorado law, and, after some research, my client figured this out. She made a copy of the relevant case and showed it to the DA, but the DA still refused to dismiss the case.

The client was certain she was correct, and then she came to me. I was familiar with the case, took it to the DA with almost exactly the same information the woman had gathered, and the DA immediately dismissed the case. I’d like to tell you that the D.A. was that impressed with me, but I believe that he listened because he knew I could make a valid argument in Court.

The odds are that you aren’t going to get the DA’s best offer when you represent yourself.

You Can Apply for a Public Defender

A public defender is an attorney who works for the State on behalf of defendants who cannot afford to hire an attorney on their own. In order to qualify for a public defender, you have to be really broke, but if you do qualify, you’ll receive legal services at no cost. This could also potentially include a free investigator, expert witness, etc., whatever you need.

Many people assume that public defenders aren’t very good attorneys, but I completely disagree with that sentiment: they’re great attorneys. The trouble is that a public defender’s case load is something like ten times the average private attorney’s case load, so you won’t get as much personal attention. Your attorney won’t be able to return your phone calls or emails as quickly because he or she has so many other cases to work through.

You Can Hire a Private Attorney

When you hire an attorney, you’ll receive more personal attention. A private attorney most likely won’t have the case load that a public defender does. Of course, the downside is that you’ll be paying for everything the private attorney does.

Once an attorney enters into the case, either public or private, they’ll receive all the relevant evidence, which might include body cam footage, police reports, written statements, the 911 call, and more. These are crucial to defending a case.

If you decide that you want to hire a private attorney, come by our office for a complimentary consultation. Call us today at 303-449-1873 to get scheduled.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what happens once your attorney meets with the DA’s office, and the next round of decisions you’ll need to make in your criminal case.

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