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A Colorado Criminal Lawyer Explains The Process Of Entering A Plea In Colorado Criminal Court

By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Drug Crimes Lawyer – Email the author at hmsteinberg@hotmail.com

A Colorado Criminal Lawyer Explains The Process Of Entering A Plea In Colorado Criminal Court – I have written on this subject matter before – this article focuses on the what happens when you enter a plea in the courtroom – what you can expect…

A Colorado Criminal Lawyer Explains The Process Of Entering A Plea In Colorado Criminal Court

A Colorado Criminal Lawyer Explains The Process Of Entering A Plea In Colorado Criminal Court

About Plea Bargaining Generally

While not ALL cases should be plea bargained – the reality of the criminal justice system is that plea bargains are used to settle – by some estimates – 90 to 95% of all criminal cases. A plea agreement ends the kind of pretrial anxieties and uncertainties that surround every criminal case. For the accused – there is a speedy disposition of the matter, acknowledgment of guilt, and the beginning of a new life putting the crime and the case into the past.

For the State of Colorado – trial time is left for the most serious of the remaining criminal cases and scarce resources are saved.

Plea Bargains can involve many different types. They can involve:

    • A charge reduction,
    • An agreement as to the length of the sentence,
    • The removal of jail or prison as a possibility,
    • A guarantee of probation,
    • Alternative sentences such as home detention or work release as a form of punishment,
    • Mental health or drug and alcohol rehabilitation based programs,
    • “Flipping” the defendant with an agreement to provide evidence or testify against a “bigger fish”

What It’s Like To “Take A Plea” – The Judge

Judge’s are like all other people. They will size you up based on how you look, what you say, and how you act in their courtrooms. At sentencing you should be attentive, well groomed and dressed appropriately. You need to be extremely respectful of the Judge (the “Court”), have the ability to explain your thoughts, and openly and honestly hold yourself accountable for your actions.. remember you are there to be sentenced.

Do NOT attempt to explain the “mitigating factors” of the crime you have committed…. leave that task to your lawyer.

Your lawyer should know the Judge. Before you go to the sentencing hearing – sit down with the lawyer and ask about the kind of person you will face in court for sentencing. Specifically, ask your lawyer about the kind of questions you can expect the Judge to ask you .. Pay attention as you should have a solid understanding of ALL of the kinds of questions you will be asked.

    • Will THIS Judge expect you to talk about the crime you committed?
    • What does the Judge expect to hear from you?
    • How should your speech be presented?
    • In what order?
    • How long should you speak?
    • How much of the case should you relate?
    • Should your words be in the form of a summary of your feelings or should they be more detailed?

The Change of Plea Hearing – or Providency Hearing

The DA Will Explain The Crime To You

In most Colorado courtrooms – the DA orally explains the “elements” of the crime to which you will plead guilty.

Pleading guilty means waiving – or “giving up” many important constitutional rights. The goal of the providency hearing is to make certain you understand the rights you are losing in favor of the agreement. Make certain you discuss these rights with your lawyer in detail BEFORE you get into the courtroom and hear them from the Judge and the DA.

The Judge Will Advise You Of Your Rights And The Possible Punishment In The Case

A plea of guilty – whatever the terms – has to be “knowing and intelligently” made.

The Judge – in a plea advisement hearing = will ask you a long list of questions to determine whether you understand every aspect of what it means to take this “deal” and plead guilty.

You must listen to the Judge carefully during this “colloquy” and make certain you understand EVERYTHING.

What Is A “Knowing and Intelligently” Entered Plea?

For a plea to be knowing and intelligent… a Defendant must:

    • Agree that he or she committed the crime that is punishable by the law violated.
    • Fully understand the charges against them.
    • Understand the “consequences of the plea” – the possible sentence under the plea agreement and the possible sentences if they had been convicted after a trial.
    • Admit and make certain the plea is not the result of force or other forms of outside coercion.
    • Admit or “waive” a factual basis in evidence that supports the crime you have pled guilty to and that supports the plea agreement.
    • Understand the rights that they are waiving (giving up) by pleading guilty:

These include the most basic rights you are accorded under law:

(1) the right to counsel

(2) the right to a jury trial,

(3) the right not to incriminate themselves,

(4) the right to confront and cross-examine all witnesses.

In Colorado – in addition to the oral advisement performed in the plea “colloquy” – there is usually a written component containing all of these same rights and many other advisements that could apply such as mandatory sentence enhancers and aggravators, treatment requirements and the like.

The Judge will also ask you to admit facts supporting the charges to which you are pleading guilty. Each Judge handles changes of plea a little differently. Again – ask your lawyer what to expect from your sentencing Judge.

Pleading Guilty: What Should I Say In Court?

Some Areas You Might Want To Address In A Sentencing Hearing

At the end of the plea and sentencing hearing – the Judge will ask your lawyer if you want to exercise your right to “allocate.”  What this means is that you will be asked if you wish to say anything after your plea has entered and you enter the sentencing “phase. You have an absolute right to talk directly to the judge – or – not speak if you decide not to. You are allowed to say anything you wish to the Judge – about your personal life, your case, or anything that you feel the Judge should know.

One important caveat here – while you can dispute some of the evidence against you – you will not be allowed to plead guilty of you maintain you did nothing wrong and did not break the law.

AND Remember this – please NEVER plead guilty if you are in fact innocent.

Some Ideas Of What TO Say and What NOT TO Say

It has been documented that about 80 percent of the time the sentencing Judge has a pretty good idea in mind of what the sentence will be before calling your case up for sentencing. Therefore the sentencing hearing may be your only chance to change his or her mind if this “idea” is not in your favor.

So – how should you prepare?

First – obtain and read the police reports – get them from your lawyer – so you will be prepared to rebut the DA’s sentencing rendition of the facts.

Second – You will need to know what the victim will say (if they appear) or what they have said in their Colorado victim impact statement. The best way to prepare here is to obtain a copy of the victim impact statement (VIS).

Third – if there is a pre-sentence report prepared in your case – obtain a copy from your lawyer and read it carefully. The sentencing Judge relies heavily on the information in the presentence report as it is prepared by the probation department.

If You Are Confused – Ask Your Lawyer – If You Don’t Have A Lawyer – Politely Ask The Judge.

If you are confused by anything happening in your case – ask your lawyer if you have one – if not, ask the sentencing Judge to explain the issue to you.  Don’t pretend to understand to save face. This process is simply too important to “fake it.”

Are There Limitations On What You Can Say To The Sentencing Judge?

In short – no.. but be careful here.. What follows are some ideas of things that might help the sentencing Judge get to know you… this is NOT an exclusive list – it is intended to help you with this most important phase of the case.. Not ALL of these ideas should be used – obtain some guidance before you use ANY of them.

1. Provide Testimony – or if your friends and family do not testify – at least provide he names and identities and their relationship to you of the people who are present to support you in court.

2. Briefly Describe How and Why The Offense Happened – While you should carefully explain your conduct – do not try to excuse it – in short, accept responsibility for your actions.

3. If Possible Pay Restitution “Up Front” (before or at the time of sentencing) for any damages you may have caused.

4. If You Were Cooperative With The Investigation – Let the Judge know that.

5. If the Victim – (or Victims) –  Are Present – Apologize To Them in Open Court and be sincere in the delivery of the apology.

6. Lesson Learned – Explain Why You Have Committed The Crime – what you have learned from the case and how you feel about what you did… Focus on the changes you have made to prevent this behavior from ever happening again. For example – if you are in treatment or counseling – tell the judge..

7. Humanize Yourself – Let The Judge Know Who You Are – provide some personal information about yourself that is relevant to the case.

Some Information You Might Want To Share:

  • Your age.
  • Your family situation, (who you support and your personal history).
  • If you are employed or in school (your education).
  • Other personal issues that might help explain your life – and your choices – to the Judge. (very briefly)
  • If you have any addictions to alcohol or drugs – the treatment you are receiving or plan to address those addictions

Other Things TO DO At The Sentencing Hearing

Courtroom decorum is important.

  • Only talk to the Judge or to your lawyer.
  • Try to speak up so that you can be heard by all in the courtroom
  • Answer audibly – be sure to answer “Yes” and “No” (not just) nodding or shaking your head.
  • Make notes of things that are important to you – try not to talk out loud to your lawyer (if you have one) do nothing to interrupt ANYONE who is speaking.
  • Wait until it is your turn to speak.
  • Listen to every question or common carefully – answer ONLY that question. If you do not understand a question or comment ask for clarification politely

Giving The Judge Something To Hold Onto – Provide Real Documents Supporting Your Position

It is one thing to orally reference information that “mitigates” (lessens or explains the impact of the crime) it is another to hand the Judge a document that supports your position.

If you have an addiction to alcohol or drugs and you are in treatment – hand the judge a report about your participation in that treatment. If you have physical or mental health issues – establish that fact for the Judge through a report or other documentation such as other medical/treatment records.

If there are those in your life that know you and can attest to your character – if they cannot make their position known personally at the hearing – they can write a “character letter” that can be handed to the Judge. I often will choose BOTH methods — the testimony AND a letter.

Other kinds of records that might help are – school records, military service records and documents of “good works” such as charity or other volunteerism in the community.

What NOT To Do Or Say At A Colorado Sentencing Hearing

  • Do NOT wear a hat… it is against the Court Rules and will irritate the Judge.
  • NEVER eat or chew gum in the court.
  • NEVER bring anything to drink into the court.
  • ALWAYS call the Judge “Your Honor.”
  • ALWAYS stand when you talk to the Judge.
  • ALWAYS be respectful, be reasonable, be courteous, and be polite all involved in the criminal justice system.
  • NEVER lose your temper. Control your emotions.
  • NEVER talk in a sentencing hearing unless it is your turn to speak.
  • NEVER have audible side conversations during the sentencing hearing.
  • NEVER utter comments under your breath – never allow “staged whispers” to be heard by the Judge or others in the courtroom.
  • NEVER – EVER argue with the sentencing Judge.
  • NEVER – EVER imply the Judge is acting improperly – is biased – or holds a grudge against you for some reason.
  • NEVER – EVER – say that is unfair that you’re going to jail, when there those who have committed much worse crimes than you who have not gone to jail. (If you ever want the Judge to reconsider his sentence – that practically will end the possibility).
  • NEVER – insist you are innocent, that your plea was involuntary, and that you have been “railroaded.” (If you feel that is true – consult with your lawyer and file an appropriate motion at the appropriate time.)

The Stress Of Taking A Plea Bargain Is NOT Unlawful Coercion, Force or Duress

Every decision to “take a plea” or take a case to trial – involves terrible pressure. However, this is not the kind of pressure – coercion – that invalidates a plea.

A Colorado Criminal Lawyer Explains The Process Of Entering A Plea In Colorado Criminal Court

If you found any information I have provided on this web page article helpful please click my Plus+1 button below so that others may also find it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at  hmsteinberg@hotmail.com  – A Denver Colorado Drug Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277.

If you are charged with A Colorado crime or you have questions about the topic of this article – A Colorado Criminal Lawyer Explains The Process of Entering A Plea In Colorado Criminal Court, please call our office. The Law Offices of H. Michael Steinberg, in Denver, Colorado, provide criminal defense clients with effective, efficient, intelligent and strong legal advocacy. We can educate you and help you navigate the stressful and complex legal process related to your criminal defense issue.

H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense AttorneyH. Michael Steinberg, is a Denver, Colorado criminal defense lawyer with over 30 years of day to day courtroom experience – specializing in Colorado Criminal Law along the Front Range. He will provide you with a free initial case consultation to evaluate your legal issues and to answer your questions with an honest assessment of your options. Remember, it costs NOTHING to discuss your case. Call now for an immediate free phone consultation.

Helping Clients To Make Informed Decisions In the Defense of Colorado Criminal Cases One Case At A Time.

Contact A Lawyer with Three Decades of Experience as a Denver Criminal Attorney at The Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm today. 


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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