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Frequently asked questions: Will the DA really take my case to trial?

Will the DA really take my case to trial? Would the court system really waste all that time and money on my case?

Yes, the DA will take your case to trial if they think they can prove the case against you (and in some cases, even when they don't). Although the court system seems to have way too many cases and not enough staff or money to deal with all of them, they will still take the time and effort to have jury trials, even for minor offenses. In recent years, there has been a push by district attorneys' offices across Colorado (especially in larger metro areas) to have more jury trials. Why? When asking why a district attorney is doing anything, it's important to keep in mind that district attorneys are elected officials. When a DA is up for re-election, their political opponents will try to use their office's case statistics (number of convictions vs. dismissals) against them. In fact, it seems that many DAs would rather lose a case at trial than just dismiss the case from the beginning. That way, it takes the blame off their office and puts it onto the jury.

In some situations, a new prosecutor may have to justify each dismissal to his or her supervisor, which puts pressure on them to prosecute the case even when they don't want to. I have done jury trials even for relatively minor traffic offenses, such as driving with a suspended license and careless driving. You can imagine how thrilled the people on the jury were when they learned they were going to spend 1-2 days to decide the outcome of a traffic ticket. The point is that, in most jurisdictions, if the DA believes they have some evidence to put in front of a jury (even if the evidence is really weak), they will probably go to trial.

So what can a lawyer do for you in those situations? Obviously he or she will represent you at trial, which is definitely not something you want to attempt on your own. But in cases where my client really wants to avoid trial, I've had success in coming up with creative solutions to give the DA a reason to dismiss the case. For example, in some cases my clients have taken a class or completed a program that addressed the DA's concerns (such as drug or alcohol treatment or anger management classes, etc). In some cases, I have had success by doing additional investigation which showed that my client shouldn't have been charged.

While it's tempting to just wait and see if the case gets dismissed, it's generally a pretty bad strategy. It's never too late to hire an attorney, even if your trial is right around the corner, but getting someone on your side as soon as possible is generally going to get you a better outcome.

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