A felony referral to the District Attorney's (DA) Office occurs when law enforcement presents an individual suspected of a felony crime to review for potential charges, generally following an arrest. This section presents data on felony cases referred by law enforcement agencies to the DA’s Office for review. The DA’s Office decides whether to file charges – a formal accusation that a specific person has committed a specific crime – based on the evidence and reasonable likelihood of conviction.
Why is this important? The DA’s Office makes decisions based on the cases they receive from law enforcement; they are not responsible for arresting or citing individuals. The office may decide not to file a case for a number of reasons, such as acceptance into a pre-charge diversion program, insufficient evidence/investigation by law enforcement, or when the charges did not rise to the level of a crime.
Our office works with local law enforcement agencies so officers are familiar with charging standards and practices of our office. While law enforcement needs probable cause to arrest an individual, our local officers are mindful that prosecutable cases require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The low declination rate is indicative that our office has good working relationships with our local partner agencies and work together to achieve a common objective. The goal of our office is to ensure that we are filing prosecutable cases to prevent overcrowding of judicial dockets and unnecessary use of investigative resources on cases that cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The cases that are declined for charging can be re-filed by law enforcement at any time within the statute of limitations if additional evidence is found.
Below are a set of indicators that provide additional context about felony referrals. These indicators help the DA's Office ensure they maximize government resources by making strategic decisions about which cases to accept for prosecution.
Our goal is to identify dismissible cases at the earliest point possible.
There are many reasons why a case may be dismissed after filing, including newly discovered evidence, the availability and cooperation of victims and witnesses, and the goals and desires of involved victims.
The level of an offense is established by the Colorado Legislature. Offenses may be charged as a felony, a misdemeanor, or a petty offense. However, prosecutors have the discretion to consider things beyond the technical elements of a charge when discussing potential plea bargains.
It is not uncommon for felony charges to be reduced to misdemeanor pleas for a variety of reasons, including: the age and criminal history of the accused; the severity of the crime and associated facts; mitigating factors occurring before, during, or after the commission of the crime; the goals and desires of the victim; whether sentencing goals such as punishment, rehabilitation, restitution, and the acceptance of responsibility can be met through a lesser charge; timeliness of a resolution through plea negotiations; the likelihood of success at trial; and an analysis of the possible felony sentence after trial compared to the sentence received through a plea resolution.
Our office prioritizes cases that involve greater public safety risks or an established history of escalating criminal conduct. As a general practice, our office does not reduce felony sex offenses or felony DUI’s to misdemeanor resolutions, absent significant evidentiary challenges.
- Underlying data counts for each chart can be accessed through this link.
- Each referral is represented once.
- Warrants are excluded (for all cases identified as a warrant).
- Misdemeanor cases are directly charged and filed by the law enforcement agency; the DA does not review these cases for charging. The DA’s Office can dismiss misdemeanor cases (see Case Resolution dashboard).
- Law enforcement arrests and charges are based on a probable cause standard of proof, whereas the DA’s Office charges based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt.