If you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial of any criminal offense, the case will proceed to sentencing. At sentencing, the judge will order the defendant to either serve probation or go to jail. Probation is an alternative to jail, by which the judge can force the defendant to participate in activities that are designed to prevent similar conduct in the future.
The sentence that is issued by the court depends on many variables. The first variable, of course, is the seriousness of the criminal offense. The more serious the offense is, the greater the punishment that is allowed for under the criminal laws in Colorado. There are three levels of criminal charges, felonies, misdemeanors, and petty offenses. Felonies are the most serious, and carry possible sentences to prison. Misdemeanor crimes can result in jail sentences at the local county jail, as can petty offenses. Within each of these broad categories, are sub-categories called "classes." The lower the class number is, the more serious the offense. For example, murder is a Class One Felony, the most serious of all — and carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
The first step in determining your "exposure," or the possible sentence that you could face, is to determine what class of felony or misdemeanor charges have been filed against you. For each crime, there is a "presumptive" punishment. Please visit our sentencing tables to see the presumptive range of incarceration for your offense. In the event you have been charged with more than one offense, your possible sentence must be calculated by adding the maximum sentence for each offense together. This is because the judge can decide to sentence you on each conviction "consecutively," meaning that you do not begin serving your time on an offense until you have finished your sentence on the other offense(s) involved.
Important: It is important to understand that the information provided here is only meant to help you understand how the process works, and is not a substitute for the experienced representation of a criminal defense attorney. Attempting to calculate your possible exposure on your own is not recommended, as there are complicated considerations involved — including whether you are eligible to receive probation, or whether your particular charge carries a mandatory sentence, and so on. Please call our office to discuss the particulars of your situation. Further every judge in Boulder, or in Colorado generally, has different tendencies at sentencing. Some judges are more harsh than others depending on the type of offense involved, which can of course affect the outcome.
Effective courtroom representation makes an enormous difference at sentencing. An experienced Boulder criminal lawyer has gone through this process countless times, and knows what to say and how to say it in order to get the best results for you. The judge will also ask you directly if you have anything to say at sentencing. The way you respond is important, and Mr. Churchill will prepare you in advance so that you handle this moment as effectively as possible.