Let me be blunt. Colorado has lots of strange laws and procedures and also pretty slim pickings when it comes to finding a really good criminal defense lawyer. Plus, they all know each other. So if your first attorney-client relationship doesn’t work out, other lawyers in Colorado might be scared off. They also might not want to create bad blood with their colleagues by seeming to be poaching their clients. So best to get it right the firt time around.
Readers should also know I speak from having been one. I’m a burned out lawyer with a new career who still passionately likes to follow and write about the legal system. So as the title of this blog indicates, I am not a licensed attorney and nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice.
I also have no dog in this fight, as I am not a practicing Colorado lawyer and I will not receive any compensation for the attorneys I recommend. referral fees are illegal in Colorado
I will also do something you don’t see on most sites: tell you about some lawyers you should not hire based on personal observations of how these attorneys handle their cases. Some of these attorneys will probably be miffed at me, but hey, truth is an absolute defense for public criticism.
This first in a series of articles on How to Hire a Criminal Attorney in Colorado will focus on misdemeanor cases, and will speak to the very different situations someone charged with a crime faces in a small community versus one of Colorado’s metro areas.
Get a Free Attorney Consultation Before Going to Court
In many Colorado jurisdictions, such as Summit County, if you show up alone the court clerk will direct you to meet with a DA to discuss your case and get an offer. You won’t get a Miranda warning because they don’t have to give you one as you are technically free to leave and are not in police custody. Believe me, the DA is not your friend and is not there to help you. They want people to plead out to their deal without getting an iota of objective legal advice.
At your free consultation you should ask the lawyer about your bond conditions. These are on one of the many forms you probably signed without reading it to get out of jail. For a DUI, the bond conditions will typically include a prohibition of drinking alcohol–regardless if you are driving or not and even if you are just enjoying a glass of wine in the privacy of your own home. A violation of bond if the DA charges it carries a minimum six month jail sentence. If you’ve used a bail bondsman, he or she should explain the bond conditions to you in detail.
If you’re in a small town like Edwards, for example, and are out at a local bar having a drink, even if you’re walking home, if a cop knows who you are, he can and likely will handcuff you right then and there and send you back to jail.
As the most common misdemeanor offense, I will use the DUI as my primary example in this series. The DUI is a complicated law, particularly when it comes to sentencing and the likely three years of probation you’ll get along with the sentence. Probation is like being at the end of a short leash with a choke collar. Even if the attorney cannot get you a better “offer” than what the DA would give you if you showed up all by yourself, the attorney will be able to guide you through the process, including helping you complete the myriad laundry list of probation conditions. See the next article in this series for more on hiring a misdemeanor attorney and the DUI process in Colorado.