Why You Should Never Rush To Plead Guilty In A Colorado Domestic Violence Case – The Fast Track Trap
Why You Should Never Rush To Plead Guilty In A Colorado Domestic Violence Case – The Fast Trsack Trap – Colorado Domestic Violence Fast Track Programs have come under heavy fire by Colorado criminal defense lawyers for the kind of tactics that are borderline – if not – certainly unconstitutional.
The Fast Track Process Is Unfair, Unjust, and Perhaps Unconstitutional
About 20 years ago the State of Colorado started receiving federal funds to set up so called domestic violence “fast track” programs. Having been a Senior Career Deputy District Attorney between 1984 and 1997 in Arapahoe and Douglas Counties – I knew how the system treated those accused of domestic violence before the fast track idea took hold in our state.
One critical foundational reason given for fast tracking domestic violence cases is the prosecutor’s belief that alleged domestic violence “victims” would – after the arrest – reconcile with the accused and be persuaded not to cooperate with the prosecution of the case. While that may be true in domestic violence cases – it holds as equally true in ANY case where there is an alleged victim of a crime.
To ignore the reality of changed feelings, forgiveness, compassion and reconsideration of having brought laws enforcement into a family altercation and taking those matters into account in the decision to prosecute reflects the politics of law enforcement and not the reality of making relationships and families work in today’s world.
What Happens During The Fast Track Plea Bargaining Process?
The fast track system is essentially a trap for the unwary. Everything is being done to make certain that those charged with even the most minor charges of domestic violence are “tricked” – yes “tricked” into taking a deal..
First – the accused is arrested usually with a cursory investigation and as a direct result of mandatory arrest policies that have nothing to do with whether a case is provable beyond a reasonable doubt – but whether the evidence (usually one sided) reaches the minimal standard for arrest – “probable cause.”
Second – once under arrest and in handcuffs – the accused is taken to and booked into the local county jail and held without the right to post a bail bond.
Third – after spending the night in a cell – in a jail uniform – the accused – usually having not slept or eaten very much nourishment – is taken to either a video advisement (the judge is at the courthouse – the video room is at the jail) or is taken to the courtroom where a judge advises the accused of their “rights.”
Fourth – the accused – without a lawyer is “fast tracked” to a meeting with the deputy district attorney – who is tasked with the job of “cutting a deal” before the accused bonds out and before they can seek the advice of a defense lawyer.
Fifth – and here’s the rub – when a human being is tired, weak, confused, and scared, that is NOT the best time to decide whether to accept a plea offer or not… an offer that will most certainly change one’s life in some substantial way.
Take A Plea – Get Out Of Jail
The very young often very green deputy district attorney who conveys the “offer” implies – or sometimes makes very clear – that if the accused does not take the deal – they are facing a long jail sentence .. the implication is they will not be allowed to bond. Plead on the spot and you will obtain your freedom, probation, domestic violence treatment and pay the court costs associated with all of this. Refuse to plea and this will only go bad for you and you will not be allowed to bond out.
With little time to think – or unable to think and exhausted from the events of the day and evening before – and without the advice of a lawyer – you take the deal.
Possible innocence means nothing to the prosecutors during this rushed process – speed is everything.
“Exculpatory evidence” – evidence that points to the innocence of the accused – is not just not disclosed during the fast track “conference,” it is often considered irrelevant by the prosecutor and is hidden from the accused who is not only not given the chance to consult a lawyer but is not allowed to read the police reports and to review the evidence – evidence which includes the strengths and the weaknesses of the State’s case.
Colorado domestic-violence “fast-track” programs are alleged to accomplish a form of “speedy justice.” The best spin they can place on rushing to a speedy disposition under these circumstances is the argument that they are holding the accused immediately accountable to help prevent future acts of domestic violence. Many times this speedy approach ends in the complete destruction of the relationship with the domestic partner and puts an end of the family unit.
Fast Tracking Those Accused Of Domestic Violence Raises Serious Constitutional Issues
The psychological tactics used in fast tracking defendants arrested for domestic violence go to the core of fairness in the criminal justice system. The Colorado fast-track system, was born out of a real need for justice in these cases – but it has become a perversion of the concept of due process itself.
Confusion and fear should not be the primary reason for taking a plea bargain. Without a comprehensive analysis of the case evidence from a person who is experienced in defending these cases – the decision to enter a guilty plea in a fast-track court -can never truly be an informed and knowing decision.
The image of the fast track “pre-trial conference” – while the accused is often still in custody, wearing jail coveralls and often still in handcuffs or leg irons with deputy district attorneys advising the accused of their “options” – conjures up a scenario that is contrary to the requirement that a plea be knowing and voluntary.
The inherently “coercive” environment in a Colorado fast-track court is clearly used to extract guilty pleas from defendants’ not in a position to exercise good judgment.
Most DV suspects are first-time offenders who have not experience with the court system. After a first-ever night in jail without sleeping or eating for many of these (mostly) men will sign anything you put in front of them as a perceived prerequisite to “get out.” Taking a deal when you have defenses to the charges is not justice.
The DA is not interested in the facts of any possible defense. They are the “adversaries” in the adversarial system that is the foundation of our criminal justice system. They convey the offer but have little time for sympathy or patience as they speed through their “docket” of “pc’s” (probable cause arrests) from last night – or the weekend.
The Wrong Kind Of Lawyer
The DA’s assigned to county court are – most of the time – the youngest most inexperienced of lawyers. As young go getters – they outdo each other in trying to curry favor with their new employers – the District Attorney’s office by being the toughest “bad ass” in their office.
These are exactly the WRONG lawyers to make decisions that will have huge impacts on real people for the rest of their lives. They have little training and few have the skills and life experience to see the big picture of the kind of damage they may be doing to people in crisis…victims or perpetrators.
Fast tracking ends with the largest number of guilty pleas, the highest conviction rates, and the inherent blessing of a system that is overloaded with cases which never should have been filed. These are borderline cases with evidence that many juries would reject at trial as proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Reject The Deal – Post Your Bond – Seek The Counsel Of A Good Lawyer
The truth is – the accused is almost always allowed to bond out even if they reject the DA’s offer. That critical piece of information is ambiguously conveyed – often held back until AFTER the DA and the accused confer at the Fast Track conference.
Mos defendant’s are unaware of the loss of their gun rights, the enormous financial commitment to successfully completing domestic violence probation, the impact of the restraining order on their lives and the lives of their loved ones and the possibility of losing their citizenship if they plead guilty. These “collateral impacts” are rarely mentioned if at all during the fast track process
Confusion About The Defendant’s Criminal History
What is never explained to those making decisions in this context is this – when a person is booked and fingerprinted – a criminal history is created. The ONLY way to remove the charging information from your record is called “sealing the record.”
In Colorado, in most instances, a case must be completely dismissed before one is eligible to seal their criminal case. If the accused takes a deal (a deferred judgment and sentence) that ends with the dismissal of the case after a period of probation – (which includes the conditions of probation mentioned above) – it is only AFTER the case is dismissed that the case is eligible to be sealed following a lengthy and difficult Colorado Civil Petition To Seal.
The DA’s and even Judge’s blur these facts and often tell defendants that after the completion of the deferred sentence the case is “wiped off” their criminal history. NOT TRUE.
Summary and Conclusion – Why You Should Never Rush To Plead Guilty In A Colorado Domestic Violence Case – The Fast Track
Monumental decisions such as whether to plead guilty or go to trial – in ANY criminal case – should be made upon great reflection and a close analysis of the facts and evidence in the case. These decisions should be made in the calm of a defense awyer’s office not in the rushed panic of the fast tracked environment.
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.
Never stop fighting – never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at firstname.lastname@example.org – A Denver Colorado Domestic Violence 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. Attorney H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case.
A Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. If you are seeking counsel there maybe other more specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics. For that, please contact the author.
If you are charged with A Colorado crime or you have questions about the topic of this article – , 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, 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.
Contact A Lawyer with Three Decades of Experience as a Denver Criminal Attorney at The Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm today.
Colorado Defense Lawyer H. Michael Steinberg regularly appears and provides solid criminal defense for clients throughout the Front Range of Colorado – including the courts of:
Adams County (Adams County criminal defense lawyer), Arapahoe County (Arapahoe County criminal defense lawyer), City and County of Boulder (Boulder County criminal defense lawyer), City and County of Broomfield (Broomfield County criminal defense lawyer), City and County of Denver (Denver criminal defense lawyer), Douglas County (Douglas County criminal defense lawyer), El Paso County – Colorado Springs (Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer), Gilpin County (Gilpin County criminal defense lawyer), Jefferson County (Jefferson County criminal defense lawyer), Larimer County, and Weld County ( Larimer and Weld County criminal defense lawyer,….
…and all the other cities and counties of Colorado along the I-25 Corridor… on cases involving the subject of this article – Why You Should Never Rush To Plead Guilty In A Colorado Domestic Violence Case – The Fast Track Trap.