Q: A detective from the police department just called me and asked if I would come down to the station to answer a few questions. Should I go? 

Q: I just found out there’s a warrant out for my arrest. What do I do?

Q: I got arrested. What happens now?

Q: Are they really recording the phone calls I make from jail?

Q: I think my case is pretty simple. I’m just going to take whatever plea they offer me and I know this won’t go to trial. Do I still need a lawyer?

Q: I got bailed out of jail, but now they’re telling me I have to take all these breath and urine tests while I’m out and that I can’t smoke marijuana or drink alcohol. And they’re making me pay for all the testing, too! What the heck is this about?

Q: I just received a call that my random UA (urine analysis) I gave today came back positive for drugs. Does that mean they’re going to revoke my bond and I’m going to be thrown back in jail?

Q: My trial is over and I was convicted. I fired my lawyer because s/he was awful. Is it too late to get an attorney for my sentencing?

 

Q: A detective from the police department just called me and asked if I would come down to the station to answer a few questions. He said that there were concerns I had committed a crime, but that if I came down to the station and just cleared up some things he’d be able to make it all go away. Should I go and talk to the detective?

A: This happens all the time and the answer is NO. Police detectives rely on their authority and use of this trickery to COLLECT evidence against you, not clear your name. Have you ever noticed that police detectives never call up persons who are represented by counsel and ask them to come answer questions? That’s because they don’t, and it’s because a criminal defender ruins all their fun. If you go to the station with an attorney, the detective doesn’t get to ask you all the questions he has prepared to get you to accidentally corroborate the little evidence he does have, so he can then bring the charges to the D.A. He has to ask you non-manipulative and non-accusatory questions, which destroys the whole purpose of having the interview. Do not EVER submit to police questioning without your attorney present. It may seem like a lose-lose, because having to say “no” to their simple request to “ask you a few questions so we can clear your name” can tend to make you look guilty. Remember, though, no one goes to jail for exercising their constitutional 5th Amendment right to remain silent. People (innocents included) go to jail when they buy into a detective’s nonsense about “clearing names” and “closing cases” and waive that critical constitutional protection.

Your safest bet in 99.9% of all possible scenarios is to take whatever precautions necessary to ensure that police interaction without an attorney present is kept to an absolute minimum. This rule applies on the streets, in your home, and outside your home. Be smart. Protect yourself. The second you feel like the spotlight is on you, or the investigation is turning to you, shut your trap and get counsel. Immediately.


Q: I just found out there’s a warrant out for my arrest. What do I do?

A: Retain counsel, immediately. Your attorney can find out what the warrant is for, what bond (if any) has been set, and can then advise you how to deal with it. Your attorney can direct you to the best police station to turn yourself into so you don’t have to spend the night in prison (it can take anywhere from 4-72 hours to bond out of the majority of police stations in Colorado – even if you have all the necessary cash with you on hand). Experienced defense attorneys know the handful of police stations that can get you in and out in less than a couple hours.

If, on the other hand, you can’t make your bond that has been set on the warrant, then retaining defense counsel before you turn yourself in will unquestionably be the most important thing you do.


Q: I got arrested. What happens now?

A: After you get arrested, you will typically be taken to the police station, booked, fingerprinted and jailed. If you were arrested on a pre-existing warrant for your arrest, there’s a good chance bond has already been set and you’ll know how much money you’ll need to post to get out. If there wasn’t a pre-existing warrant, you’ll have to sit in jail until a judge sets bond. In Larimer County, for example, these first appearances happen first thing in the morning on Thursdays. If you’re arrested and jailed on a Wednesday, you’ll go before the judge first thing in the morning on Thursday to have your bond set and advise the court as to whether you plan to hire counsel. For certain crimes, such as sex offense or child abuse, bond generally starts at $50,000. Fortunately, you don’t have to come up with the whole $50,000 yourself – that’s what bail bondsmen are for. You can usually find a bail bondsman willing to accept 10-15% of the bond amount to post it for you and act as your surety (however that 10-15% you pay them will not be refunded after the case is over). For drug offenses, bond generally starts out much lower, often between $2,500 – $5,000, which is far less intimidating and easier to come up with. Of course, if this isn’t your first arrest and if you have a criminal track record, the court may elect to set your bond much higher. If you cannot make bond, you will have to sit in jail until you do, or until your case is resolved.

Having a criminal defense attorney during this initial process can make a big difference. Your attorney can argue for a reduction of bond on your behalf if you are having trouble coming up with the money for it. Your attorney can also immediately advise you at the first court appearance as to the best course of conduct for you to take while your trial is pending. Having a criminal defender also saves you from having to speak to the court or anyone else, which lifts a huge burden for most of the accused, who are typically too overwhelmed and anxious to manage all this themselves.


Q: Are they really recording the phone calls I make from jail?

A: YES. Rule number one of jail is DON’T DISCUSS ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR CASE OVER THE PHONE OR WITH OTHER INMATES WHILE IN JAIL. Prosecutors and law enforcement LOVE compiling and reviewing all your jail phone calls to see if you admitted anything about your case; as you can imagine, it makes their jobs so, so much easier. You should basically conduct yourself during all phone conversations from jail as though the DA is sitting right next to you listening in. Because they are, and if you make any admission or any statement that supports their case or conflicts with your prior statements in any way, then congratulations – now the jury will get to hear it, too.


Q: I think my case is pretty simple. I’m just going to take whatever plea they offer me, and I know this won’t go to trial. Do I still need a lawyer?

A: Believe it or not, yes. Having an attorney impacts the character of the plea that the district attorney offers you. Having a good attorney can make an even bigger impact. Good attorneys aren’t afraid to take any case to trial if the offer isn’t right, and the D.A.’s office knows who those attorneys are. Everyone hates having to do extra work, government employees included. Good defense attorneys symbolize a lot of extra work to prosecutors, and so they tend to improve their initial plea offer for defendants with these attorneys significantly.

Beyond the plea, you also want to have an attorney to speak on your behalf at sentencing. That’s where you get an opportunity to put all the evidence you want before the judge regarding why you deserve the minimal sentence or an alternate sentence to DOC. These sentencing hearings are Sarah Schielke’s criminal defense specialty. Sarah then takes that evidence and turns it into a coherent and critical story of your background and growth of character, arguing for you persuasively and compassionately. For most people, this is the most important segment of your journey through the criminal justice process. Trying to argue on your own behalf for a better sentence can be disastrous. Don’t take any chances.


Q: I got bailed out of jail, but now they’re telling me I have to take all these breath and urine tests while I’m out and that I can’t smoke marijuana or drink alcohol. And they’re making me pay for all the testing, too! What the heck is this about?

A: Those are called the “standard terms and conditions” of bond. It is the State’s way of saying: If we’re going to let you out of custody and back on the streets, we need to ensure that you’re not going to engage in conduct that endangers the public again. The problem of course is that this violates your constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, as it necessarily assumes you did in fact endanger the public in the first place. Sadly, Colorado courts have not been receptive to this argument, and so the pretrial substance monitoring bond conditions continue to be an unavoidable consequence of being arrested in this State. Standard terms and conditions of bond are that you must remain law-abiding, cannot drink alcohol, cannot use drugs, cannot smoke medical marijuana, cannot contact the alleged victim (if there is one in your case) or come within a certain distance of said victim and that you have to submit to random drug and alcohol testing (at your expense).

If you have good cause to be exempt from one or more of these standard conditions (for example, if you have a card and need to be able to smoke medical marijuana or take prescription medications for a health condition), your defense counsel can request a court hearing on the matter. A good defender can often convince the court to better sculpt the terms and conditions of your bond to better fit you and your circumstances while you have to await resolution of your case.

More importantly, you don’t have to be subject to these terms indefinitely. Once you have compiled at least a month or so of clean tests, your defense attorney can file a motion to end your pretrial substance monitoring and state in support the fact that you’ve remained clean and detail what a burden – both in terms of money and time – that the random testing requirement has been to you.


Q: I just received a call that my random UA (urine analysis) I gave today came back positive for drugs. Does that mean they’re going to revoke my bond and I’m going to be thrown back in jail?

A: It can mean that. It depends on a lot of factors, such as:

  1. What kind of drug you came up positive for;
  2. Whether or not this is your first “hot” UA;
  3. What kind of offense you are charged with; and
  4. How busy the D.A. is that is handling your case.

For example, if you have been providing clean UAs or BAs for the past month, and haven’t missed any, and you test positive for marijuana, it is unlikely that your bond will be revoked and you’ll be thrown back in jail. It is of course possible, and it does happen, but generally you will be given a warning. Any dirty screenings after that warning, however, will likely be cause for concern and risk revocation of your bond. Testing positive just once for something like methamphetamines, on the other hand, will likely result in a motion to revoke your bond being filed immediately. Essentially, if the D.A. thinks you aren’t complying with or otherwise taking your bond conditions seriously, he or she will be far more likely to put in the work to file a motion to revoke your bond and have a hearing on the matter than they would be otherwise. It basically all comes down to the severity of the violation and the discretion of the district attorney. Needless to say, you would be very wise to have defense counsel for this!


Q: My trial is over and I was convicted. I fired my lawyer because s/he was awful. Is it too late to get an attorney for my sentencing?

A: It is NEVER too late to get assistance of counsel. That is how critical defense attorneys are to our system of justice. If you decide you want to get an attorney or want a new attorney at any point – even if it’s 5 minutes before your sentencing hearing starts – you will almost always be permitted the time necessary to obtain one, for whatever purpose.

And there’s nothing wrong with having different attorneys do different parts of your case. It will certainly make things more complicated, but there really are no rules when it comes to the defendant’s defense preferences. You can hire and fire your attorney as you please and if you have serious, grave doubts about your current counsel’s ability to provide you the best defense possible, you should never hesitate to look into obtaining someone else. It’s your life on the line. Trust your gut and don’t take any chances.