Probation in Colorado Criminal Cases - How it Works

Updated

Probation is a type of alternative sentencing in Colorado. Probationers agree to complete various terms in exchange for not going to jail or serving a reduced jail sentence.

Most criminal defendants are eligible for alternative sentencing. In some cases, courts may agree to terminate probation early. And if the judge grants a deferred judgment, the defendant's charge may be reduced or dismissed completely once the case ends.

Below our Denver criminal defense lawyers discuss:

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Most defendants are eligible for probation in Colorado.

1. What is probation in Colorado?

Probation is an alternative to incarceration. (However, certain charges require some jail time.)

Probationary conditions depend on the specific charge and vary case-to-case. Common conditions include some or all of the following:

Counties offer various probationary programs depending on the criminal charges. Examples include:

2. Who is eligible?

Generally, defendants are eligible for probation unless either:

Defendants typically ask for probation during the sentencing hearing. Otherwise, they can ask for alternative sentencing after serving part of their jail or prison sentence.

3. Can I get probation for my DUI?

Judges commonly grant probation in DUI cases. There should be no jail if:

Otherwise, some jail will be mandatory:

Colorado drunk/drugged driving charge

Minimum jail with probation

First-time DUI or DWAI with a BAC of less than 0.20%

None

First-time DWAI with a BAC of 0.20% or more

2 days

First-time DUI with a BAC of 0.20% or more

5 days

Second-time DUI

10 days

Third-time DUI

60 days

Fourth-time DUI 

90 days

4. What is the difference between supervised and unsupervised probation?

With supervised alternative sentencing, probationers report directly to their PO. With unsupervised alternative sentencing, probationers instead report straight to the court.

Therefore, unsupervised probation is more convenient. And defendants usually have to pay less fees as well.

Judges usually grant unsupervised probation to defendants convicted of the most minor offenses.

5. How long does probation last?

It varies by case. It is typically 3 months to 2 years. But it can be shorter or longer.

6. Can I get off probation early?

Probationers who have been compliant may be eligible for early release. Learn more about applying for early termination of probation in Colorado.

7. What happens if I violate the terms?

Probationers who violate their terms may be arrested on a "no bond" warrant. Then they could be sent or returned to custody to serve out their original sentence.

The court will hold a revocation hearing. There, defendants may argue against having their alternative sentencing revoked. If the violation was minimal, the judge may consider giving the defendant a second chance and reinstating probation. 

8. What happens when I complete the terms?

Upon successful completion of all terms, the probationer is released from the supervision of the Colorado judicial system.

If the probationer was granted a deferred sentence, the charges may then be dismissed or reduced.

9. How do I find my probation status?

Depending on the county, it may be available on the court website. Otherwise, people can call the local probation department for the latest information.

Look up Colorado courts by county.

Look up Colorado's probation departments by county.

10. Does Colorado accept transfers?

Usually yes. Colorado participates in the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision. As part of this agreement, different states accommodate each other's probationers. Learn more about transferring probation to or from Colorado.

11. How much does probation cost?

Supervised alternative sentencing requires a $50 monthly fee. This is separate from any other fines, fees, and restitution the court may have ordered.

12. Are probation records public?

Yes, unless the defendant is a juvenile (under 18). People can contact the local probation department or else look up the case on the court website.

Look up Colorado courts by county.

13. Do POs come to my home?

In some cases, yes. Sometimes these visits are scheduled. Other times POs show up without prior notice. And depending on the case, POs may conduct an alcohol or drug test on the probationer.

In cases without home visits, the probationer may be required to check in with the PO at the probation department or by phone.

14. Can POs search my house?

It varies by case, so defendants should discuss this with their attorneys. Typically, POs need "reasonable suspicion" that there may be contraband in the home in order to search it without a warrant.2 Contraband includes firearms or drugs.

15. Can POs track my cell phone?

Not unless the PO has a valid warrant or court order.

16. Can you look up someone's PO?

Yes, people can call the local probation department to get a PO's name. The only exception is for juvenile defendants (under 18) -- that information remains confidential.

Look up Colorado's probation departments by county.

17. How is it different than parole?

Parole and probation are both types of supervised release. They both have similar terms. And people who violate their terms face incarceration.

Judges usually grant probation instead of jail. (Though in some cases, jail is still required.) Defendants in misdemeanor cases may get misdemeanor probation. And those in felony cases may get felony probation. In 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court held that courts may never sentence a defendant to both prison and probation for the same case.3

In contrast, parole follows a prison sentence. Some inmates get released early on parole. And only people sentenced to felonies may be eligible for parole.

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Call our Denver criminal defense attorneys. 303-222-0330. We offer free consultations.

Call us for help…

To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Colorado defense attorneys, simply fill out the confidential form on this page. Or call us at our centrally located Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 222-0330

In California? Learn about summary- and formal probation in California.

In Nevada? Learn about probation revocation in Nevada.


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