1Do I really need to hire a criminal defense attorney or can I represent myself?
In most cases, you should hire defense counsel to guide you through the process and defend your rights. When you first meet with a defense attorney, bring a copy of your summons and any other paperwork
related to the case. The attorney will review the charges and learn the facts as you understand them. Based on his or her conversation with you, a fee will be set. Usually, some sort of retainer is required. In certain circumstances, a payment plan may be available. The fee will be based on the level of the offense, the estimated amount of work required, and the potential exposure and severity of the consequences.
2How do I come up with a strong defense?
After you’ve retained a criminal defense attorney, he will enter an “appearance” with the court, advising the judge and prosecutors on your case that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney so that no one will communicate with you without your attorney present. Your attorney will order what is known as discovery, gathering evidence and testimony such as police reports, 911 calls, witness statements, photos and any other evidence that the police gathered and the district attorney plans to use against you. In Colorado, the district attorney is required to give all of the evidence to your attorney in advance of trial. After receiving all of the evidence, your attorney will review it to see if there is sufficient evidence against you. Your attorney will also be looking for weaknesses, mistakes made by law enforcement, and potential defenses to the charges.
3Can my attorney negotiate with prosecutors?
After your attorney has evaluated all of the facts and evidence, he will have a good sense of the strengths or weaknesses of the prosecution’s case against you. Usually, your attorney will meet with prosecutors to discuss the possibility of a plea bargain, though a plea arrangement may not be either available or advisable in a given case. If a plea offer has been made, your attorney will discuss it with you and advise you of the risk and benefits of either accepting the offer or rejecting it and proceeding to trial.
4Do I have to go to trial?
If you and your defense lawyer make the decision to go to trial, you will appear before a judge (a bench trial) or a judge and jury to present your defense and fight the charges. Your attorney should be aggressive, thorough, and strategic, challenging prosecutors at every turn. At the end of the trial, a verdict will be returned and you will either be acquitted or found guilty on some or all of the charges against you. If you are found guilty, your attorney may believe there is a solid basis for appealing the verdict and seek to have it overturned.
Again, every criminal case is different and how your case proceeds may not exactly follow the steps above. Going to trial is very expensive and risky. It also requires additional attorney fees and a significant investment in time to all.