"Arraignments" in Colorado criminal cases


An arraignment is the initial court appearance in a Colorado criminal case. At the arraignment, (1) the defendant is informed of the charges, (2) the defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty, and (3) the judge sets the case for further proceedings. In felony cases, the accused must always be present at the arraignment. In misdemeanor cases, the defense attorney generally may appear without the client present.

In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers explain:

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1. What happens during an arraignment?

After an arrest, you may be given a summons to appear in court on a later date for an arraignment. The first hearing is an advisement hearing, followed by the arraignment. Under Rule 10 of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure, during the arraignment in open court, the defendant is informed of the offense for which they are charged, requiring them to enter a plea to the charge.

Depending on the court, type of criminal offense, and other factors, the arraignment may be held within a few days or a few weeks after the arrest. Most misdemeanors in Colorado are handled by the County Courts. An arraignment for a felony complaint may be handled by the District Courts.

Like many parts of the legal process, an arraignment may be confusing for people who have never been arrested before. This is why it is recommended to use the time between the arrest and arraignment to find an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney who will represent you in your criminal case.

During the arraignment, the judge will call your case. The judge will then read out the formal criminal charges against you, and ask how you will plead. This is the initial notice of formal charges, so even if you plead not guilty, you may have a chance to later change your plea. In most cases, you may choose to plead “not guilty.”

After pleading not guilty, the judge will put your case down for another court date, generally the pretrial conference. After you have been given a new date for your case, that may be the end of the arraignment. The arraignment process in most Colorado criminal cases may only last a couple of minutes.

2. Do I have to appear in person for my arraignment?

Whether or not you have to appear in person may depend on your specific case. If you were charged with a minor crime or misdemeanor, you may be able to have your attorney appear in court for your arraignment. However, if you were charged with a felony, you will probably need to appear in person before a judge in the appropriate Colorado District Court.

There may be a number of factors that make it difficult for you to appear in person for your arraignment, including work schedule, transportation difficulty, living in a different city or state, or if you have to stay at home to care for a family member. However, you should never skip the arraignment without getting approval ahead of time from the court. If you fail to show up, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. This could result in jail time and expensive fines.

Talk to your Colorado attorney well before you arraignment date to find out if you have to appear in person. They will advise you of whether you have to be there or not. In many cases, your attorney can appear on your behalf, inform the court that you are pleading not guilty, and get the date for your next court appearance.

3. How should I plead during the arraignment?

The arraignment may not be the best time to think about pleading guilty. It is very early on in the criminal court process and you may not know what kind of case the Colorado district attorney has against you. After pleading not guilty, your attorney will be able to get access to all the evidence the prosecutor has and will rely on in his or her case against you. However, if you plead guilty, that may be the end of your criminal case and you will be sentenced by the judge. If you have any questions about how you should plead during the arraignment, talk to your attorney.

4. What do I do after an arraignment?

After the arraignment, your case will proceed to the pretrial hearing. At this point, your attorney will be able to get access to the evidence and information that the prosecutor will rely on in prosecuting the case against you. This may include a police report, chemical test evidence, witness statements, surveillance footage, and other evidence or documentation. Once your attorney has a chance to evaluate the case, they will have a better idea of how strong the Colorado prosecutor's case is against you.

Your next court appearance may be weeks away, and you may be wondering what you should do during this time. The criminal court process in Colorado can be slow. This can be a very stressful time, especially for someone who has never had any experience with the criminal justice system. This is why it is important to have a Colorado criminal defense attorney who keeps you informed and communicates the progress of your case.

Call us for help...

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If you have any questions about an arraignment or any other part of the criminal court process in Colorado, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. 

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