The answer is a resounding YES.
If you’ve been charged with any crime or suspect you’re going to be arrested, it’s not too soon to retain a criminal defense attorney. While you think you can handle your case alone, the repercussions of not retaining a savvy, experienced criminal defense attorney could make the difference between prison or freedom, a criminal record or not.
Consequences for Criminal Convictions in Colorado
Worst of all, a criminal conviction can take your freedom. Even if you think the charges aren’t serious, a conviction could create negative, life-altering circumstances. And more serious criminal convictions can destroy your life, possibly permanently.
Besides the possibility that you will spend time in jail or prison, a criminal record can also prevent you from pursuing certain careers (possibly including the military), professional licenses, job and housing opportunities or university education. You could also lose your drivers’ license or be prohibited from acquiring financing or leasing property and much more. And all that doesn’t begin to address what it will do to your reputation, family, self-respect, and peace of mind.
Waiting to Hire A Criminal Attorney Causes Irreversible Damage to Your Case
If you think the police may consider you a suspect in a crime, but you wait to hire an attorney until they approach or arrest you, you may set yourself up for serious trouble that could be circumvented or minimized if you involve an attorney beforehand.
Or if this is the first time you’ve been charged with a crime, you may naively think you can tell the judge that you didn’t do what you’re accused of, and the charges will be dismissed, or you’ll be found not guilty. If only the “justice” system were that simple and straightforward, but it’s not.
For more information, check out our post: Unjust Accusations Could Leave You Needing a Defense.
On the other hand, if you know you did something illegal and think you should plead guilty without an attorney and get it over with, you may incur an unnecessarily harsh sentence when alternative punishments such as probation, drug court or house arrest may be available.
Criminal Court Without a Defense Attorney in Colorado
When a defendant shows up in court without an attorney, it usually delays proceedings. The average person doesn’t know all the court rules and procedures, which may irritate and annoy a judge. And annoying a judge isn’t something you want to do because it is unlikely to help the outcome of your case.
A critical mistake many defendants make is that they wait to hire an attorney until just before their trial because they think it will save them money.
All these ideas are bad, and here’s why.
The Criminal Prosecution Process for Denver, Colorado
Criminal Law: PRE- AND POST-ARREST
If you suspect you may be arrested, immediately acquire representation and don’t “wait and see what happens.” Why? A smart criminal defense attorney will strongly advise you NOT to make statements or answer questions if you are detained or arrested by police without an attorney present. And your retained attorney will also tell you that police cannot make deals with the prosecutor or judge if you’ll only tell them what they want to hear—it’s a trick. If you listen to the advice your attorney gives you before an arrest, it can thwart the police and prosecution’s goals.
Criminal Law: Bonds and Bail
Should you be arrested and tossed in the county jail and bail is set—especially if you can’t pay it—your attorney can appeal to the court on your behalf for a manageable reduced or zero bond so you can get out of jail pending future court dates.
Criminal Law: Preliminary Hearing
After charges against you have been filed, a preliminary hearing will occur at a district magistrate where a local judge will decide whether your case will be held for state or federal court (in vernacular often referred to as “Big Court”). Depending upon the severity of your charges or evidence if it exists, an attorney may be able to convince the police and prosecutor to drop some or all the charges against you at the preliminary hearing. If it’s possible to resolve your case there, you can avoid going to Big Court where the stakes and risks are higher. Even if your case proceeds to a higher court, a competent attorney may be able to negotiate lesser charges at the preliminary hearing.
Criminal Law: Formal Arraignment
This hearing is the first step toward prosecution where your case is formally entered into the county, state or federal criminal court system, and your next court date is set. While you won’t appear before a judge at the formal arraignment, it gives your attorney another opportunity to review what you are facing and further negotiate with the district attorney assigned to your case.
Even more important, between the time of your formal arraignment and your next court date, a pre-trial conference, your attorney can be able to develop a strategy to effectively build a strong case.
Criminal Law: Pretrial Conference
At this hearing, the district attorney assigned to your case will advise your attorney how the prosecution intends to proceed against you. For instance, they may offer an opportunity for you to plead to your charges or go to a jury trial or non-jury trial, the latter where a judge will decide your fate.
At a pre-trial conference, your attorney is critical in assessing what’s in your best interest and advising you how it’s best for you to proceed. While it’s wise to follow your attorney’s advice, it’s ultimately your decision. If you don’t want to accept the prosecutor’s plea offer, you can choose to go to trial.
Also, at this time, your attorney and prosecutor can discuss possible sentencing, including probation options, alternative housing and/or reduced jail time if you plead to the charges or are found guilty. If you take your attorney’s advice at this juncture, it may spare you from the worst possible outcome.
Criminal Law: Trial
If you wait to hire an attorney until immediately before your trial, there will be no time to put together a winning strategy and solid case. For your defense lawyer to properly prepare on your behalf takes considerable time. The elements of effective case preparation may include evidence collection before it is lost, decays or disappears; ordering and reviewing police reports; witness location, interviews, and depositions; hiring investigators and crime reconstructionists and more.
Colorado Criminal Court Proceedings: You’ll Want to Act Quickly
To delay hiring a criminal defense attorney because you think you’ll save money on their fees or because you’re naïve about the potential consequences of not having representation can lead to an enormous, disastrous and irreversible outcome.
So, yes. It’s critical that you hire a criminal defense attorney when you’re a suspect in a crime or have been arrested. At any and every point, it’s not too soon.
Aggressive, Respected Criminal Defense Attorney Jeff Weeden Represents Defendants Within and Outside the Denver Metro
A trusted advocate during his nearly 20 years representing those accused of crimes, attorney Weeden has represented clients throughout Colorado including Adams, Arapahoe, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin, Jefferson, Larimer, Morgan, Weld counties and beyond.
It’s Time to Make A Call to Protect Your Rights and Build A Strong Case Before It’s Too Late
For a free initial consultation, call 720.307.4330, or fill out a case review form here.