Example of burdens of proof in a criminal case | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

It’s a warm summer night and a homeowner has phoned 911 to report a burglary.  The homeowner says the burglar was wearing a mask, sweatshirt, and was carrying a bag.  The homeowner reports a missing DVD player his wife’s necklaces.

Minutes later a police officer observes a man running just two blocks from the homeowner’s address.  The man is wearing a dark sweatshirt and sweatpants, there is mud on his pants and shoes, and he has a bag over his shoulder. The officer now has reasonable suspicion to stop and identify this person.  However, there is not yet enough evidence (probable cause) to make an arrest.

The officer stops and questions the man and learns that he does not live in the area.  The officer observes that the man is visibly nervous and is sweating.  The officer looks inside the bag and sees electronics and jewelry.  The officer now has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and arrests the man.

A grand jury is later presented with the case.  If they believe that there is probable cause cause, then they will indict the case and send it to the district court.

In the district court, a jury is empaneled to hear the evidence.  To convict, the prosecutor must present enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

A brief overview of burdens of proof | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

Burden of proof is essentially the amount of proof needed to prove something.  The amount of proof changes depending on the type of case.  For example, to convict someone of a criminal offense and strip them of their freedom, you must have proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  This is the most proof required in any legal case—as it should be.

On the other hand, for a civil case where money is at issue, you need a “preponderance” of the evidence.  This is essentially enough evidence to tip the scales of justice only slightly.  Put another way, you will have a preponderance of the evidence if you have 51% of the evidence and the other side has 49%.

In between criminal and civil cases is “clear and convincing evidence”.  This is the amount of proof needed in child custody cases.  It’s less than the proof needed to take someone’s freedom away, but more than needed to win a money judgment against someone.

Burden of Proof | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorneys sometimes glaze over certain terms without making sure you fully understand them.  “Burden of proof” is one of those, and it will undoubtedly arise during your case.  This is one phrase that you must understand because can change depending on the type of case or even the proceeding.  The following is a brief overview of burdens of proof.

Criminal cases are more complicated

Criminal cases have three standards of proof: reasonable suspicion, probable cause and beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reasonable suspicion is the amount of evidence an officer needs to stop someone on the street and ask them questions.  For this, the officer must be able to articulate that a person has been, is, or is about to commit a crime.

Probable cause is the amount of evidence an officer needs to make an arrest.  This means that the officer must have probable cause, which is a reasonable belief that the person has committed a crime. Probable cause is not enough evidence to convict.  It is only the amount of evidence needed to make an arrest.  Probable cause is also the amount of evidence that a grand jury needs to indict a case.  This is why many cases are indicted, but fewer are able to be proven to a jury.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is the amount of evidence a prosecutor must present to a jury to obtain a conviction at trial.

Knowledge Center:

Example of burdens of proof in a criminal case.

Levels of proof chart: The following chart is helpful in explaining the levels of proof.

Blood Draws | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

Under Colorado’s expressed consent law, you have the right to demand a blood test if you are suspected of driving drunk.  You absolutely have the right to refuse to provide a sample of your breath or blood. 

In certain limited situations, the police may obtain a sample of your blood without your consent and may even physically restrain you for these purposes: 

  • If you are a suspect  in a criminally negligent homicide, vehicular homicide, assault in the third degree or vehicular assault. 
  • If the officer obtains a search warrant by articulating probable cause to a judge.  This is treated exactly like a search warrant for a home, except that now the enclosed space to be searched is your body.

Eagle County resident charged with cocaine distribution | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

The Denver Post is reporting that Charles Guadalupe was arrested on drug charges.  Guadalupe, 45, who lives on Davos Trail in Vail, has been charged with two counts of distribution of cocaine and two counts of possession of cocaine.  The arrest is the result of an investigation where undercover officers purchased $500 worth of cocaine from Guadalupe.  He did not hire an attorney from 5280defense.com.

224 marijuana plants seized during arrest of Chris Bartkowicz of Denver | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

The Denver Westword Blogs is reporting that DEA conducted a raid of the Highlands Ranch residence of Chris Bartkowicz.  During the search, agents found 224 marijuana plants.  Bartkowicz was charged by the United States Attorney’s Office with possession with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense 224 marijuana plants — a crime that could net him between five and forty years behind bars and a fine of $2 million.  He did not hire an attorney from 5280defense.com.

What are common mistakes found in warrants? | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

Most judges do an excellent job evaluating the probable cause within the document.  If a judge takes issue with something in the warrant, it is usually corrected and represented at a later time.  Prosecutors and law enforcement officials have the duty to honestly disclose the facts to the judge.  However, judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials are people, and sometimes make mistakes.

Common mistakes are:

  • Incorrect description of the location to be searched;
  • Police took items not described in the warrant;
  • Prosecutor or law enforcement officer left out key details;
  • Judge was tired and accidentally signed a warrant that did not have probable cause.

How do you challenge a warrant? | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

Warrants are challenged during pre-trial motions.  An attorney will file a Motion to Suppress the evidence gained from the warrant.  The attorney will present grounds based in law and/or fact that prove to the judge that the warrant should not have been issued, that the police searched for items not described in the warrant, or a myriad of other reasons.

Who writes a warrant? | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

A warrant is usually drafted by a prosecutor or law enforcement official and presented to a judge.  The judge reviews the warrant for probable cause.  If the judge is satisfied that there is probable cause, it is signed.  The judge’s signature makes the warrant active for a period of time.

What is a warrant? | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

A warrant is a document that authorizes the government to do certain things.  Sometimes a warrant authorizes entry into a closed space such as a house or building.  Other warrants authorize the search of a device such a computer or cellular phone.  Some warrants are issued to secure the arrest of someone who has violated the law.

Warrants contain affidavits from a law enforcement officer who swears to a specific set of facts.  These facts must have probable cause before a judge will sign.  For a finding of probable cause, the judge must have a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed.  It does not take a lot of evidence for a judge to find probable cause.  It should be noted that this legal standard is MUCH lower than a jury must find to convict, which is: evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Knowledge Center:

Levels of proof chart: The following chart is helpful in explaining the levels of proof.