What Happens in a Criminal Case Before Charges Are Filed?
In general, the pre-filing stage of a criminal case refers to everything that happens before criminal charges are officially filed. This can include quite a lot or very little, depending on the specific details. There are some differences in this process between a felony and misdemeanor in Colorado, but most of the process is pretty similar.
Bear in mind that this is only a basic overview, courtesy of The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., and you should immediately obtain legal representation after any arrest. Laws change and individual situations call for different measures, both in filing and defending a case.
An Arrest Warrant or Probable Cause
A criminal case really begins with the stop and arrest of a suspect. How does this happens? One of two ways. Either an arrest warrant has been issued by a judge, or a law enforcement agent is acting with probable cause to arrest someone he’s observing. In any case, police must follow regulated procedures to protect the rights of every person.
If a judge issues an arrest warrant, there is a specific suspicion and person who it is issued for. At this point, police officers can pursue the subject of the warrant and even enter a home or other private residence to make an arrest.
Without an arrest warrant, police officers must have probable cause to stop and arrest a suspect. Any police officer who directly witnesses a crime being committed can make an arrest, but otherwise he or she must have a “reasonable suspicion” that a suspect has committed a crime.
The Matter of Bail
During the pre-filing stage of a criminal case, bail will be set for a defendant. When a judge issues an arrest warrant, he or she typically sets bail as part of the warrant. Otherwise, bail is set by whichever judge is present for the first appearance or arraignment of a defendant. This amount should be reasonable for the circumstances of each case and defendant, and should not be excessive or seem like punishment before charges are even filed. (Having an attorney can help prevent this.)
Preliminary Hearings and Filing of Charges
In some cases, there are preliminary hearings before charges are filed. If the Colorado Attorney General chooses to use a grand jury, which is rare, then it will convene and hear the details of the case. The grand jury will either decide there is not enough evidence for a trial, or issue an indictment to file charges against the defendant. Otherwise, the prosecutor can file charges through an “information” (only for federal crimes, and only if the defendant waives his/her right to an indictment) or a criminal complaint. Once this happens, then the process moves into additional stages such as plea bargaining and a trial.
If you or someone you know has been arrested, call the experienced criminal defense attorneys of The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., at (719) 475-2555. Tell us about your case. We have some of the top defenders in the state of Colorado, and we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and your future.