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Definitions

Criminal Legal Terms

Arrest: Law enforcement takes an individual into legal custody in response to the suspicion of an individual’s violation of the law. Law enforcement uses the standard of “probable cause” to determine whether an individual should be arrested, given information provided by witnesses or other evidence.

Bail or bond: The amount of money set by the court for the release of a person accused of a crime. It is designed to assure the person's presence for trial and may contain additional non-monetary conditions of release.

Beyond a reasonable doubt: the legal burden of proof required to convict a defendant in a criminal case at trial. The prosecution bears the burden of proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – in other words, that there is no other reasonable explanation that can come from the evidence presented.

Bond Hearing: If in custody a bond hearing is held to provide argument, evidence, or testimony for the Court to use in determining an appropriate amount of bail to be set for a defendant.

Case: A case is a collection of all charges against a defendant arising out of a single incident. In this dashboard, cases are classified by their most serious charge (the crime that a defendant is accused of committing). 

Crime: An act prohibited by statute.

Conviction: The outcome of criminal case when a defendant is determined to be guilty of a crime.

Defendant: The person against whom a criminal case is pending.

Filing a case: Prosecutors review arrest reports/referrals for each felony case. If the prosecutor determines the evidence supports a good faith belief in conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, the case is filed and continues until resolution.

In custody: When an individual is being detained by law enforcement, the court, or another legal entity and is not free to leave.

Plea agreement: an agreement between the prosecution and the defendant defining the specific conditions and crimes to which a defendant chooses to plead guilty.

Pretrial detention: Defendants who are detained pretrial are incarcerated in jail prior to resolution of the case.

Probable cause: Evidentiary reason for arrest or to obtain a warrant. A reasonable basis for believing that a crime has been committed.

Public Defender Qualification: In Colorado, incarcerated defendants are automatically appointed a public defender for as long as they remain in custody. Out-of-custody defendants must apply and meet federal indigence requirements to qualify for a public defender.

Recidivism:  For the purposes of our dashboard, defendants who recidivate are those who have a new criminal case (misdemeanor or felony) filed after case resolution. This might include a new law violation or a violation of a defendant’s term of probation.

Referred: A case is referred when it is submitted to the District  Attorney’s Office for review. This includes investigations, arrests, warrants, notices to appear, citations, and other requests for prosecution.

Victim: A victim is a person who has suffered direct or threatened physical psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime.

Charge Levels

Felony: Felonies are the most serious criminal violations of Colorado state laws (Colorado Revised Statutes), and include crimes such murder, rape, robbery, and manufacture and delivery of illegal drugs. In Colorado, felonies are divided into six classes, with Class 6 being the lowest level of felony and Class 1 the most serious, with prison sentences ranging from 18 months to life in prison. Sentences following conviction for a felony may include fines, probation, probation plus jail, community corrections, and prison. There are also four classes of drug felonies, with Class 4 being the lowest, and Class 1 the highest, with prison sentences ranging from six months to 32 years in prison.

Misdemeanor: Misdemeanors are less serious criminal violations of Colorado state laws, punishable by a sentence of up to 364 days in county jail. A person convicted of a misdemeanor cannot be sentenced to state prison, unless the misdemeanor sentence is served simultaneously (concurrently) with a felony sentence.  In Colorado, misdemeanor offenses are now divided into two classes, with Class 2 being the lowest level of misdemeanor and Class 1 the most serious. Misdemeanors cover a wide range of offenses, including crimes such as serious traffic offenses, alcohol-related traffic offenses (such as DUI and DWAI), careless driving resulting in injury or death, domestic violence, 3rd degree assault, 2nd degree forgery, indecent exposure, obstructing a police officer, theft less than $2,000, resisting arrest, criminal mischief with less than $2,000 damage, public fighting, prostitution and soliciting for prostitution, and underage drinking. There are also two classes of drug misdemeanors, DM1 and DM2, where the maximum possible punishment is 18 months.

Petty Offenses/Infractions: Petty offenses are the least serious criminal violations of Colorado state laws. Examples of petty offenses are third degree criminal trespass and littering of public or private property. Infractions relate only to very specific (not all) charges involving use and possession of marijuana and certain traffic violations. Infractions may be paid without making a court appearance.

Charge Types

Person: Includes homicide, assault, domestic violence, reckless endangerment, child abuse, kidnapping, human trafficking, false imprisonment, stalking, menacing, extortion, neglect, unlawful termination of pregnancy, violation of order of protection/restraining order, posting private image, harassment, and robbery.

Property: Includes arson, burglary, criminal exploitation, criminal mischief, forgery, fraud, cybercrime, defacing property, ID theft, motor vehicle theft, racketeering, robbery, tax evasion, theft, and trespassing.

Drugs: Includes possession of a controlled substance charges (including marijuana), possession with intent to distribute, distribution (including marijuana), manufacture of controlled substance (including marijuana), possession/sale of drug paraphernalia, public consumption of marijuana, and other drug charges. 

DUI: Includes Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI), Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID), Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI), and Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (DWAID) charges.

Sex Offense: Includes sexual assault (including sexual assault on a child and sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust), sexual contact, sexual exploitation, incest, enticement, internet luring, sexual human trafficking, prostitution charges, indecent exposure and public indecency, and some invasion of privacy charges. 

Traffic: Includes careless driving, driver’s license violations, driving under restraint, driving without insurance, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, and other vehicle/traffic charges.

Weapons: Includes possession of a weapon, including a handgun, carrying a concealed weapon, prohibited use of a weapon, illegal discharge, straw purchase, and other weapons charges.

Other: Includes obscenity, invasion of privacy, contributing to the delinquency of a  minor, abuse of public records, accessory to a crime, bribery or tampering, retaliation against judge/prosecutor, disarming a peace officer, disorderly conduct and official misconduct, riot, false report/emergency, escape, introduction/possession of contraband in detention, obstruction of an officer/official, endangering public transportation, perjury, resisting arrest, tampering with evidence, violation of bail bond or custody, alcohol offenses, bias motivated crimes, cruelty to animals, hunting/wildlife violations, gaming/gambling, eluding, wiretapping/eavesdropping/abuse of telephone, and  sex offender registration violations. 

Sentence Enhancer: Includes aggravated/repeat juvenile offender, habitual criminal, violent crime, and other sentence enhancers.

Dispositions

Dismissed:  A case is dismissed when the criminal charges are terminated after the case is filed, either by the court or by the prosecutor. There can be several reasons for why a case is dismissed, including: a lack of evidence or unavailability of a witness as part of a plea agreement. This category also includes cases that are referred to diversion and successfully complete diversion programming.

Plea Dismissal: It is not uncommon for defendants to have multiple criminal cases going on at the same time. A defendant may be able to resolve such a situation by pleading guilty to some of the cases in exchange for others being dismissed. So, if a defendant pleads guilty to a case in exchange for the dismissal of two others, the case plead to would be categorized as plead guilty, whereas each of the cases dismissed would be categorized as “plea dismissals”.

Diversion: Diversion is an alternative solution that can take many forms, but it usually involves a suspension of formal criminal proceedings against a defendant, where after completion of certain conditions (such as treatment that addresses the underlying causes of criminal behavior), the defendant has their charges dismissed. Diversion takes place pre-plea.

Deferred Judgment: A deferred judgment is a temporary guilty plea. The defendant accepts responsibility such as service hours, probation, payment of restitution, or counseling or treatment related to their case. If they comply with the terms, their guilty plea is withdrawn and the case is dismissed. If they do not comply with the terms, then the case is reopened and subsequently sentenced. Deferred judgment is granted after a defendant takes a plea.

Plead Guilty: A defendant pleads guilty when they admit a factual basis for the plea and acknowledges guilt for a charge, sometimes in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

Found Guilty: A defendant is found guilty when found guilty at trial of any charge.

Acquitted: A case is acquitted when a judge or jury at trial determines that the defendant is not guilty of the crime for which the individual has been charged.

Sentences

Across this dashboard each case is categorized by its most serious sentence (in the order listed below). A sentence to incarceration includes any of the following sentences:

Prison, or Department of Corrections, is a sentence to state prison.

Youth Corrections, is a sentence to ​​the Department of Human Services/Youth Corrections, the Department of Institutions/Youth Corrections, the Department of Youth Corrections, Juvenile Detentions Center, or a youthful offender sentence.

Community Corrections is a sentence to a community corrections facility, sometimes called a halfway house. 

Jail is a sentence to local incarceration, generally for misdemeanor cases.

Probation with jail includes any sentence of jail and probation, as well as inmate/outmate programs, work release, in-home detention, and weekenders.

*Non-incarceral sentences includes any of the following:*

Probation is a sentence to supervision of a defendant involving standard terms and conditions, as well as special conditions imposed by a court. 

Time served is a sentence of jail time that has already been completed by the defendant during the course of the case. 

Community service is a sentence to complete a certain number of hours of “useful public service”, generally run by local non-profit organizations.

Fines are the fixed monetary sanctions imposed by a judge based on the severity of the crime committed and the ability of the offender to pay.

Fees are charges imposed to cover system costs.

Other Dashboard Groupings

Attempted: Defendant is charged with engaging in conduct constituting a substantial step towards committing a crime. 

Violent Crime: Violent Crime, as co-defined by the DA Offices participating in the Colorado Prosecutorial Dashboard Project, includes charges categorized within the Crimes of Violence Statute (18-1.3-406 ),  or is per se a Crime of Violence per case law. The definition includes attempted charges. Additionally, it includes Child Abuse resulting in Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) or Death.  For escape and extortion, given the wide range of potential charges, those charges are only included as a “violent crime” when the District Attorney has charged the case with a crime of violence sentence enhancer.

This definition of violent crime is used in the following indicators:

Click here to see the full list of violent crime charges.

At-Risk Elders: Victims who are 70 years of age or older.

The Victim Rights Act (VRA): A VRA case is one that provides constitutional protections for victims of certain crimes to be “heard when relevant, informed and present at all critical stages of the criminal justice process”. (Article 11, Section 16a of the Colorado State Constitution.)

Legislative Landscape

  • 2017: HB17-1288 adjusted penalties for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) felonies, increasing the amount of jail as a condition of probation.
  • 2018: HB18-1029 lowered the length of mandatory parole time.
  • 2019: HB19-1148 capped the maximum incarceration sentence on a misdemeanor to 364 days.
  • 2020: HB19-1263 reclassified drug charges (felonies to misdemeanors) on March 1, 2020. 
  • 2020: SB20-100 repealed the death penalty on July 1, 2020.
  • 2022: SB21-271 reclassified charging and sentencing on March 1, 2022: misdemeanors and petty offenses classifications were reformed to reduce corresponding sentence lengths. Some misdemeanors, such as Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), were reclassified as felonies, whereas some felonies were dropped to misdemeanors.
  • 2022: HB22-1326 fentanyl accountability and prevention law makes any substance containing more than one gram of fentanyl a felony.
  • 2025: HB20-1026 creates the 23rd judicial district to go into effect in 2025. (Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln).

Demographics

Age: Defendant and victim age is calculated at the time of the case is filed.

Gender: Gender is defined as determined by law enforcement in the following categories: Male, Female, Other.

Ethnicity: For purposes of these indicators, ethnicity is defined as Hispanic or non-Hispanic.

Race: Race is defined as the racial category as determined by law enforcement in the following categories: Hispanic, Black, Native American, Asian, White, and Other.

Race and Ethnicity are captured separately in the DA’s case management system. Aligned with a person-centered approach, across the dashboard we have combined the two fields. If the individual is identified as Hispanic and White, they are categorized as Hispanic. If the individual’s race is logged as Black, they are categorized as Black regardless of their ethnicity.  If the individual’s race is logged as Native American, they are categorized as Native American regardless of their ethnicity. Individuals identified as having a race of Asian or Other, and an ethnicity of Non-Hispanic, are categorized as Another Race.

Given historical inequities in the justice system, in presenting metrics, we have chosen to compare outcomes for people of color (including Black, Hispanic, and Native American individuals) against White individuals. We hope this provides clear information on the presence/extent of differences by race/ethnicity. This is not meant to imply that the rate for White individuals is an appropriate benchmark. In addition, we have significantly less confidence that Hispanic individuals are accurately identified in the current dataset.

Some race/ethnic groups have small sample sizes. To address issues of small sample size, see measures taken in the Methods section below.

The District Population, by Race/Ethnicity 2020 Census was generated from information publicly available through the United States Census Bureau. In 2020 the U.S. Census collected race and ethnicity as two questions: one for ethnicity, “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino”, and another for race with six categories: “White,” “Black or African American,” “American Indian or Alaska Native,” “Asian”, “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander”, and “Some Other Race”. To best compare the general population to the population of individuals with criminal cases filed, we have used similar logic to categorize individuals. If the individual is identified as Hispanic and White, they are categorized as Hispanic. If the individual’s race is logged as Black, they are categorized as Black regardless of their ethnicity.  If the individual’s race is logged as Native American (“American Indian or Alaska Native” or “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander”) they are categorized as Native American regardless of their ethnicity. Individuals categorized as “Some Other Race” and Hispanic are categorized as Hispanic. Individuals that selected two or more races, regardless of their ethnicity, are categorized in the “Multiracial or Another Race” category.

Data Terms

Average: The average of a set of numbers is the sum of the numbers divided by the total number of values in the set. For example, to find the average of 24, 55, 17, 87 and 100, first find the sum of the numbers: 24 + 55 + 17 + 87 + 100 = 283 and divide by 5 to get 56.6.

Median: The median is the value separating the higher half of a data sample from the lower half. It may be thought of as the "middle" value of a data set. For example, in the data set {1, 3, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9}, the median is 6, the fourth number in the sample.

Outlier: An outlier is a data point that differs from other observations, is much bigger or much smaller.

Quintile: ​​A quintile is a statistical value of a data set that represents 20% of a given population, so the lowest quintile represents the lowest fifth of the data, while the upper quintile represents the highest fifth of the data.

Standard Deviation: A measure of how dispersed the data is in relation to the mean. Low standard deviation means data are clustered around the mean, and high standard deviation indicates data are more spread out.

Defendant Median Household Income: As a socioeconomic proxy, 2020 Census data was used to determine the median household income of the zip code where the defendant is reported to reside. We limited the defendant zip code to defendants convicted of felonies with Colorado addresses. We categorized the zip codes into quintiles, and compared the highest income quintile to the lowest income quintile. This socioeconomic proxy is used in:

Victim Median Household Income: As a socioeconomic proxy, 2020 Census data was used to determine the median household income of the zip code where the victim is reported to reside. We limited the victim zip code to victims of felonies with Colorado addresses. We categorized the zip codes into quintiles, and compared the  highest income quintile to the lowest income quintile. This socioeconomic proxy is used in:

Methods

This dashboard aggregates data from the 18th District Attorney Office's case management system, Action, stored and shared by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council (CDAC).

We present data in eight sections, summarizing information about different parts of the prosecution process. In each section we present: 

  1. General trends, an overview of cases and characteristics 
  2. Indicators, selected from the menu of 55 Prosecutorial Performance Indicators (PPIs), which are designed to measure capacity and efficiency, community safety and well-being, and fairness and justice. PPIs offer an array of metrics that can be tracked over time to inform decision making and policy development.

To address issues of small sample size, we implemented the following measures:

  1. Presented some data points annually instead of quarterly.
  2. When the quarterly measure was less than 20, we took a three month moving average. 
  3. When the annual number was less than 20, we excluded the metric.

Criminal history and recidivism measures are limited in that they are calculated based on cases filed (for recidivism) and cases convicted (for criminal history) within the eight District Attorneys’ offices participating in the Colorado Prosecutorial Dashboards Project (the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 18th, and 20th). We do not have information on cases filed  outside these jurisdictions nor do the measures reflect cases from outside the state of Colorado. Criminal history relies on data since 2007. For these reasons, criminal history and recidivism may be underestimated. When benchmarked against data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, criminal history was found to be of similar magnitude.