If you were recently arrested for a criminal offense in the Greater Denver Area, or if you’re the target of a criminal investigation, you probably have a lot of questions. “What could happen to me if I am formally charged? What are the possible outcomes of a criminal case?”
Criminal cases are separated into misdemeanors and felonies, with felonies being the more serious of the two. Since criminal offenses vary widely, there are different possible criminal court outcomes. This post explains the most common results for criminal prosecutions.
1. When charges are dropped. If you are charged with a crime, it does not guarantee that your case will go to trial. The prosecutor can decide to drop the charges against you for various reasons, such as a weak case, inadmissible evidence, or a witness who does not want to press charges.
2. When you decide to plead guilty. I want you to know that you should not plead guilty to an offense without your defense attorney’s advice. Usually, when someone pleads guilty it’s because their defense lawyer and the prosecutor negotiated a plea deal. Once a deal has been reached, a hearing will be scheduled with the judge.
In this scenario, the defendant pleads guilty in court so his or her plea is recorded by the court. After the defendant enters their plea, the defendant is responsible for the sentence he or she agreed to. The sentence may involve probation, a jail term, prison, and fines, etc.
3. When you accept a plea bargain. As a general rule, the outcomes of taking a plea deal are almost the same as pleading guilty. The defense and the prosecution agree on a deal, the defendant pleads guilty to a certain offense, and it becomes a part of public record.
When you simply plead guilty like in #2 above, or when you plead guilty through a plea deal, you’re waiving your right to a jury trial. From there, the judge reviews the plea agreement and he or she may adjust the proposed sentence based on the facts of the case and the nature of the offense. You have to accept the sentence determined by the judge.
4. When you go to trial. When you plead “not guilty” at your arraignment, your case will proceed to trial. If the jury comes back with a “guilty” verdict, you’ll have to show up in court at a later date for sentencing, which will be determined by a judge. If you are found “not guilty,” you’ll be released from custody and you’ll be able to go home that day.