Skip to main content
U.S. flag

We're working to improve and add to this site.

Defendant Characteristics

This section presents information on defendant characteristics, including race, ethnicity, age, and gender. It also presents information on criminal history and trends in offending.

Why is this important? Not all individuals are equally likely to come into contact with the justice system. Systemic drivers – such as neighborhood and access to education, employment opportunities, and health resources – can impact involvement. In addition, based on wealth, some defendants may be better positioned to get “out” of the system – for example, to pay bail, afford private counsel, or access treatment. Effective prosecution strategies should consider ways to ensure that cases are processed fairly, in light of these differences. 

What are we doing to ensure that race and ethnicity data are accurate? Collecting accurate race, ethnicity, and gender data is critical to achieving equity and fairness in the justice system. It is best practice to collect race, ethnicity, and gender data via self-report, meaning that the defendant decides how they are identified.

As we have noted throughout these pages, the data we currently rely on is not based on a system of voluntary self-report. We continue to work with our law enforcement partners to explore new avenues to improve the accuracy of this data.









Important note about race and ethnicity data: The information contained in this dashboard comes from a variety of sources and is NOT based on a consistent method of voluntary self-identification. We have specific concerns as it relates to identifying individuals of Hispanic ethnicity due to the way data has been historically captured. Our belief is that the data we have underrepresents Hispanic defendants and over-represents white defendants as a result. Despite these concerns on data accuracy, we believe we must engage in the public discussion around racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

The above chart reflects raw numbers of case filings. At first glance it might appear that the filing reduction among white defendants is dramatically different. However, when looking at 2020 data, the year of the sharpest decline, filings on Black defendants dropped from 5,644 (in 2019) to 4,560 (in 2020), a reduction of 19.2%. By comparison, filings on White defendants dropped from 22,189 (in 2019) to 18089 (in 2020), which reflects a reduction of 18.5%. Hispanic defendants did not see a similar reduction, though we believe this is mostly attributable to more accurately capturing Hispanic defendants who had otherwise been included in the data as White defendants.




Important note about race and ethnicity data: The information contained in this dashboard comes from a variety of sources and is NOT based on a consistent method of voluntary self-identification. We have specific concerns as it relates to identifying individuals of Hispanic ethnicity due to the way data has been historically captured. Our belief is that the data we have underrepresents Hispanic defendants and over-represents white defendants as a result. Despite these concerns on data accuracy, we believe we must engage in the public discussion around racial disparity in the criminal justice system.













A defendant's criminal history is a tremendously important aspect of our case review, along with the facts of the current case. This data is a limited glimpse and a first attempt to examine that criminal history. This review of criminal history does not include convictions in other states or federal convictions. Similarly, municipal convictions are excluded. At this phase, criminal history data is restricted to only those 8 judicial districts that participated in this pilot project. This means that significant metro districts, including ones that border our jurisdiction, are not included. We view this reporting as an important first step and we hope to build on and enhance this analysis in the coming months and years.


Indicators

Below are a set of indicators that provide additional context about defendant characteristics. These indicators help the DA's Office reduce disparities in the criminal system and ensure we are treating all individuals fairly. 



Violent offenses often come with sentence enhancers or significant incarceration when compared to less serious offenses like drug possession. Our first priority in these cases is the safety of the victim and the community. We would expect very few defendants to have a prior violent crime conviction when facing a pending violent crime charge because of the serious penalties that are often imposed on violent offenses.




For anyone we encounter in the criminal justice system, it is our sincere hope that we don't encounter them again in the future, but that is not our current reality. This chart demonstrates that well over half of the individuals who are convicted of a felony are individuals with at least some prior convictions. Our most recent data indicates that nearly half of people who are convicted of a felony have at least one prior felony conviction. We will continue to monitor this indicator as we evaluate the impacts of recent legislation and our office's practices.


Notes:

  • Data on defendant demographics, including race and ethnicity, is reported to the DA’s Office by law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement currently captures this data through various mechanisms: (1) by linking to prior criminal history records, (2) by scanning a Colorado ID or driver’s license, (3) through fingerprint technology, or (4) based on the officer’s “perceived demographic information of the person contacted” (as required by HB21-1250). Officer assumptions have the potential to lead to inaccurate or inconsistent data. 
  • In benchmarking against the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice we found that individuals identified as Hispanic are underreported in our data.