Advisement Hearings in Colorado Criminal Court

An advisement hearing in Colorado criminal court is the first time the accused is brought before a judge after an arrest.

  1. During the 1st advisement hearing, the judge will tell the accused what crimes he or she is being investigated for and will set bond.
  2. During the 2nd advisement hearing, the judge will tell the accused what crimes he or she has been charged with having committed.

The advisement hearing is primarily to let the accused know about the criminal charges the prosecutor will plan to prosecute in court. The accused does not have to plead guilty or not guilty during the advisement, that is part of the arraignment.

The judge may also ask about whether the accused has a lawyer, plans on hiring a lawyer, or needs a lawyer to be appointed by the state.

During the advisement, the accused may also be able to request a lower bond or inquire about having to request a bond hearing.

To help you better understand what an advisement hearing is like in Colorado, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

Defendant in court judge ss
An advisement hearing in Colorado criminal court is the first time the accused is brought before a judge after an arrest.

1. What happens during an advisement hearing in Colorado criminal court?

An advisement hearing is usually your first court appearance in the Colorado criminal court process. This is where the judge may:

  • advise the accused of what crimes he or she is suspected of committing,
  • advise the accused of the charges the district attorney (DA) plans to prosecute,
  • ask if the accused has an attorney, and
  • set bond for the accused.

Advisement hearings may vary by county. A suspect may appear for one or two advisement hearings, and an advisement hearing may be combined with a bond hearing.

An “advisement hearing” and “arraignment” are not the same thing. The advisement hearing is to tell the suspect about the investigation or possible charges. The arraignment is when the suspect enters a plea.

1.1. First Advisement Hearing in Colorado

Depending on the county, the 1st advisement hearing will be the first court appearance after an arrest. This generally takes place shortly after arrest, usually the next business day, although it could occur on a weekend.

When the accused appears before the judge, the judge will advise the accused that he or she under investigation on suspicion of committing a crime. An investigation generally means the prosecutor has not filed charges yet and may be deciding what charges to file or whether to file charges at all.

The judge will set bond during the advisement hearing in Colorado, except for homicide investigations.

The judge may also advise the accused of his or her rights and ask whether the accused has an attorney, plans to hire a lawyer, or needs to have a public defender appointed. Before the accused can get a public defender, he or she has to meet certain income-level requirements.

1.2. Second Advisement Hearing in Colorado

The 2nd advisement hearing is a step further than the 1st advisement, where the judge tells the accused of the formal criminal charges. During the 2nd advisement hearing, the judge informs the accused of the criminal charges the prosecutor will bring.

The formal charges give the accused and his or her attorney the basis for what plea the defendant wants to enter during the arraignment.

At the 2nd advisement hearing, the defendant may also request a reduction in bond. The judge may be able to lower the bond during the advisement hearing or through a later bond hearing. In some cases, the advisement hearing may be combined with a bond hearing.

2. What is the difference between an advisement hearing and an arraignment in Colorado?

An advisement hearing and an arraignment are not the same thing. Some people use these terms interchangeably but they have different purposes. An advisement hearing involves the judge advising the accused of the criminal investigation or charges. An arraignment is where the accused has to respond to the state's charges.1

During the arraignment, the DA will present a criminal complaint against the defendant. The criminal complaint includes all the criminal charges against the defendant. The defendant may have the chance to respond to the charges by entering a plea of:

  • Guilty, or
  • Not guilty.

An arraignment may also give the DA and criminal defense attorney the chance to negotiate a possible plea bargain. The plea bargain process is a negotiation between the prosecutor and defendant. The DA may initially offer a “bad deal,” hoping the defendant takes the offer because the defendant is threatened with the maximum penalties.

3. Do I need to have my lawyer appear at the advisement hearings?

If the accused does not have a lawyer, the judge may advise the accused of his or her rights during the advisement. This includes the right to an attorney. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed.

However, not everyone automatically gets a free lawyer. A public defender is generally reserved for those who meet certain income levels.

If the accused has an attorney, the attorney may appear at the advisement hearing. This will give the defense lawyer the initial tools necessary to begin investigating the case. The earlier the lawyer can get to work on the case, the more options the defendant may have to fight the criminal charges.

Early involvement may also give the Colorado criminal defense attorney a chance to see what judge will be assigned to the case and who the prosecutor may be. This may give the attorney an idea of how the case will be handled and what kinds of arguments the prosecutor is likely to focus on.

Should I have an attorney present for my arraignment in Colorado?

You may not need a lawyer during your advisement hearing. However, it can be critical to your case to have a lawyer for the arraignment. Do not plead guilty to criminal charges without understanding the consequences and what rights you may be giving up. Talk to your Colorado criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.

3.1. Will I be given a lawyer at my advisement hearing in Colorado?

Suspects are not automatically given a public defender to represent them in criminal court. The right to have an attorney if you cannot afford one requires meeting certain income level requirements in Colorado.

Even if you meet the requirements for a public defender, the public defender may not be assigned to your case until after the advisement hearing.

To get a public defender in Colorado, you have to meet certain income limits or meet expenses-to-income limits. This includes reporting all income sources, monthly expenses, and total household assets. Whether you meet the limits for a public defender in Colorado will also depend on the class of criminal charges.

4. How does the judge set bond during the advisement hearing?

Bond is a type of security to ensure the defendant will appear for future court dates. Bail may be posted for a defendant's release from custody either through money, secured property, or a bail bond company.2

The amount of bail will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The seriousness of criminal charges and sentencing,
  • Defendant's criminal record,
  • Prior missed court dates,
  • Employment status and employment history,
  • The extent of family relationships,
  • Past and current residences, and
  • Any other factors indicating the defendant may violate the law or flee the jurisdiction.3

When the defendant or the defendant's family cannot afford the full bond amount, they may have to turn to a bail bond company. A bail bond company usually charges a fee, usually 10% to 15% of the bail amount, and puts up collateral to guarantee the amount of bail if the defendant does not appear in court.

4.1. How can I get my bond reduced if I can't afford to post a bond in Colorado?

You may be able to request to have your bail reduced or eliminated through a bond hearing. A bond hearing may be separate or combined with the 2nd arraignment.

During a bail hearing or bond hearing, the defense attorney may argue for a reduction in bail. The defense attorney can also request the defendant be released on his or her own recognizance. An unsecured personal recognizance bond does not require putting up money or a security and is a promise the defendant will appear for court hearings. 4

To reduce bond or bail, the defense attorney may present evidence or testimony to show the defendant is likely to appear for all scheduled court appearances and will not leave the jurisdiction. This may include statements or documents showing the defendant's:

  • Employment history,
  • Family history,
  • Caring for a sick family member,
  • No ties to other states or communities,
  • The defendant's character,
  • Involvement in the community, or
  • The defendant's statements and promises.5

5. What happens after the advisement hearing in Colorado criminal court?

After the advisement hearing, the next part of the criminal court process may be the preliminary hearing or the arraignment. Not all cases have a preliminary hearing. This is generally limited to serious felonies or felonies where the defendant is in jail.

At a preliminary hearing, the DA may present some evidence to support the criminal charges against the defendant. This may not include all the evidence against the accused and some of the evidence may be challenged later to be kept out of court. This is only to support the prosecutor's position that it is more likely than not that the defendant is guilty of the charges.

After an advisement hearing, the prosecutor and the defendant may also continue the plea bargain process. The stronger the defendant's case, the less likely he or she may want to accept a plea deal. Talk to your Colorado criminal defense attorney about the strength of your case and whether you may want to take a plea deal or fight the charges.

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Need a lawyer for your advisement hearing in Colorado? Call us…

If you or someone you know has been arrested and needs legal representation during the criminal court process, contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our experienced Colorado defense attorneys have successfully represented clients arrested for a variety of felony or misdemeanor offenses across the state. Contact us for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.


Legal References:

  1. C.R.S. 16-1-104(2) (“'Arraignment" means the formal act of calling the defendant into open court, informing him of the offense with which he is charged, and the entry of a plea to the charge.”)
  2. C.R.S. 16-1-104(5)
  3. C.R.S. 16-4-103
  4. C.R.S. 16-4-104(3)
  5. C.R.S. 16-4-109. Reduction or increase of monetary conditions of bond - change in bond or conditions of bond.

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