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CHAPTER 4: OVERVIEW OF A CRIMINAL CASE - Table of Contents

4.1 - Filing of Charges4.2 - Arrest and Custody4.3 - Advisement Hearings4.4 - Preliminary Proceedings4.5 - Plea Negotiations4.6 - Arraignment4.7 - Pretrial Motions4.8 - Overview of a Criminal Trial

4.4 PRELIMINARY PROCEEDINGS

In felony cases, Colorado's rules of procedure and statutes require that either a preliminary hearing or a dispositional hearing be held prior to the formal arraignment of the defendant. These are usually held in county court. A preliminary hearing is a full-scale, adversarial hearing with witnesses before a judge to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime charged. The prosecution must only show probable cause, not enough evidence to support a conviction. The preliminary hearing is a screening device that gives the defendant an opportunity to challenge the prosecution's evidence and weeds out those cases that should not proceed to trial. A preliminary hearing also gives the attorneys the opportunity to engage in plea negotiations. A defendant charged by grand jury indictment is not entitled to a preliminary hearing. Preliminary hearings are available in all Class 1, 2 and 3 felonies, in certain more serious Class 4, 5 and 6 felonies, and in all other Class 4, 5 and 6 felonies if the person remains in custody. Preliminary hearings are discussed in more detail in Chapter 7.1.

A dispositional hearing is scheduled in those less serious Class 4, 5 and 6 felonies when the defendant is not in custody. A dispositional hearing is not an adversarial hearing and does not involve the presentation of evidence or witnesses. It is an opportunity for the attorneys to discuss the case and determine whether it can be resolved through plea negotiation or should proceed to trial.

Persons charged with misdemeanors are directed to attend a pre-trial conference. A pre-trial conference is like a dispositional hearing in that it is an opportunity for the lawyers to negotiate rather than an adversarial hearing in front of a judge. Boulder County continues to monitor the process of a misdemeanor case in the system through case management conferences, held after pre-trial conferences to review the status of cases, make sure that meaningful negotiation has occurred, and determine whether the case needs to be set for trial.

Preliminary hearings, dispositional hearings, pre-trial conferences and case management conferences are discussed in more detail in Chapter 7.1 and 7.2.

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