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.
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.
One of the biggest challenges of this project is accurately identifying the race and ethnicity of our citizens, especially our Hispanic citizens. Not only is this data tracked by us, it is also tracked by law enforcement and the judiciary. This has resulted in multiple and often conflicting identifications. The Colorado legislature recently passed laws requiring the police to identify persons based on "perceived" race and ethnicity rather than collecting data based on self-identification. This has resulted in further inaccuracies. Although self-identification is the most accurate measure, Constitutional protections often prevent prosecutors from directly interacting with the criminally accused. Our office is taking control of this data and seeks to collect race and ethnicity statistics from a variety of sources derived from self-identification. We hope that accurately identifying the race and ethnicity of our Hispanic citizens will improve as we implement these practices.
Until we develop a more accurate way of collecting this data, it should be viewed with caution.
A difference in 3% or less suggests that there may not be a meaningful disparity between the decision to decline felony charges for our Hispanic citizens versus our White citizens. The data suggests that over time, there is no disparity between Hispanic and White individuals in the decision to file felony charges.
It is not possible to examine filing differences for Black individuals and individuals of Another Race due to the low number of cases. Click Here for more information about race and ethnicity data collection and limitations.
In criminal cases, prosecutors are required to prove each and every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt to the unanimous satisfaction of all jurors. This is the highest burden of proof in the United States judicial system.
There are many reasons why a case may be dismissed after filing, including additional evidence revealed after charging, the availability and cooperation of witnesses, and the goals and desires of involved victims.
Filing charges that are not backed by evidence supporting our burden of proof is not only an inefficient use of resources, but needlessly subjects the criminally accused and alleged victims to lengthy, complex, costly, and often traumatic processes. It is crucial for our prosecutors to be able to identify, charge, and proceed on only those cases where we can meet our burden of proof.
In general, the above graph reflects a pattern that we hope to see, a reduction in declined cases and a reduction in cases dismissed after filing.
Our office files felony charges based on whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is common for felony charges to be disposed of as misdemeanors 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, remuneration, and the acceptance of responsibility can be met through a misdemeanor resolution; 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.
- 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.