Criminal cases can be incredibly stressful, especially for first-time offenders, and being formally charged with a crime can feel like the end of the world. But are prosecutors able to add or change charges before a person goes to trial? Can the charges be changed while the trial is ongoing?
Understanding how criminal charges work and how prosecutors can modify them is crucial in any criminal case. Luckily, Denver criminal defense attorney Jeff Weeden is here to help those accused of a crime understand all of the charges they’re up against. If you have been accused of a crime in Colorado, Attorney Jeff Weeden can walk you through the process and can even help defend against the prosecution’s claims in court.
Call WeedenLaw today at (720) 307-4330 to schedule a free initial case evaluation with Attorney Jeff Weeden regarding your potential criminal case.
What is a Criminal Charge?
A criminal charge, sometimes referred to as a criminal complaint, is a legal accusation of a crime. If law enforcement has probable cause to arrest someone for a crime, the alleged criminal (defendant) may have one or more charges filed against them in regard to the suspected crime.
Who is Able to File Criminal Charges?
There are different people within the Colorado criminal justice system who can initially file criminal charges, depending on the severity of the crime.
According to Colorado state laws, the only person able to file felony criminal charges against someone is the district attorney (DA). When someone is suspected of breaking a criminal law, they may be arrested by a police officer and taken into police custody.
After being taken into police custody, the district attorney’s office then has about three business days to file formal charges against the alleged criminal. If the DA believes beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did commit a crime and has enough evidence to support this belief, then they will file criminal charges against the defendant.
However, if the DA believes that there’s not enough evidence to formally charge the defendant with a crime within that three-day time frame, the defendant may be released from custody. In certain circumstances, the DA may request additional time to investigate before deciding whether to file charges.
Since misdemeanors are less severe than felonies, these criminal charges can be filed by police. After making an arrest, the police are able to file charges against the person they arrested and provide them with a “Summons and Complaint,” which lists their charge or charges.
In cases where police don’t arrest someone, they give the person a ticket, which acts as their “Summons and Complaint.”
Can Prosecutors Add Charges?
Yes, after the police or the DA file charges against someone, a prosecutor may add additional charges in the leadup to that person’s trial.
This usually occurs when the district attorney, deputy district attorney, or municipal prosecutor assigned to the case has enough evidence to prosecute that person for additional crimes.
In some cases, a person may be given an additional felony charge, but in most cases, these additional charges are misdemeanors.
Prosecutors also have the power to dismiss charges. If they don’t have enough evidence to prove the charge in court, the prosecutor can dismiss it, meaning the defendant will not have to defend themselves against that specific charge.
It’s important to note that the prosecutor’s power to add charges is not unlimited. Prosecutors cannot add charges that are filed in retaliation for something or filed out of discrimination.
While it can be hard to prove that the DA filed the charges out of retaliation or discrimination, it’s still possible to have these illegal charges dropped.
Can Prosecutors Add Charges During Trial?
No, the DA cannot add or change the charges after the trial begins. Defendants have the right to defend themselves against criminal charges in trial court. If the defendant isn’t given time to build a defense against a new criminal charge, then they can’t have a fair trial.
Can Prosecutors Amend Charges?
Yes, after charges have been filed, prosecutors have the right to amend these charges. After the arrest, the police and DA often conduct an investigation and gather evidence. If the investigation uncovers evidence that refutes the original charge, then the prosecutor can amend it.
Why Do Prosecutors Add Charges?
Prosecutors add charges for a number of reasons. One reason they may add charges is if they discover new evidence in their investigation that would allow them to file additional charges against the defendant.
For example, if someone discharges a firearm in a public space, they may initially be charged with disorderly conduct. Depending on the evidence found during the investigation, they may also be faced with a weapons charge like illegal discharge of a weapon or illegal purchase of firearms.
In other cases, however, prosecutors may add charges simply to increase the severity of a person’s punishment. This can be done as a strategic move to help ensure the defendant is punished in some way. Basically, prosecutors may charge a person with as many crimes as they can prove in court in the hopes that one or more of the charges stick.
Another reason prosecutors may add charges is to gain leverage in a potential plea bargain. When someone is charged with a crime, the prosecution may give the defendant a plea deal, which allows the defendant to receive a lesser punishment if they plead “guilty.”
Prosecutors may tack on as many charges as possible to pressure the defendant into taking the deal, making it easier for prosecutors to secure a guilty plea. They may even charge the defendant with crimes that they know they don’t have enough evidence to prove in court, just to make it seem like pleading guilty is the defendant’s best option.
How Long Does a DA Have to File Charges in Colorado?
It depends on the crime. Each crime has a statute of limitations, which is a window of time in which prosecutors must file charges against a person for that specific crime. The figurative clock starts ticking from the day the alleged crime occurred. Once enough time has passed, the DA can no longer have charges filed against someone for that crime.
How To Fight Additional Charges in a Criminal Case
Whether you’re facing one criminal charge or multiple charges, it’s important that you hire a criminal defense attorney to help defend you and your interests in court. In any criminal case, there’s often a lot at stake, including a person’s freedom, which is why it’s crucial that anyone facing criminal charges has aggressive legal representation.
Criminal defense lawyers have an in-depth understanding of the Colorado legal system and the strategies prosecutors use to secure a guilty verdict. This gives them a unique advantage in plea deals and trials, allowing them to advise their clients on the best possible course of action in regard to their case.
Additionally, criminal defense attorneys will be able to defend against charges that have been filed after the defendant’s initial charge. It’s important that all of the charges filed against the defendant are accounted for and properly refuted, and a good criminal defense attorney will do just that.
A criminal defense attorney will build a strong defense against each charge, ensuring their client receives the best possible outcome in their criminal case. Criminal defense lawyers will also be able to fight against charges that have been filed illegally, protecting their client’s right to a fair trial.
To Protect Yourself Against The Criminal Justice System, Call Denver Criminal Defense Attorney Jeff Weeden Today
If you are facing criminal charges in Colorado, you need a skilled attorney on your side to defend your interests and protect your freedom. Attorney Jeff Weeden has years of experience defending clients in the Denver court system and has a long history of successful case results. When you hire him, you can rest easy knowing your case is in capable hands.