Perhaps you think only well-deserving, hardened criminals end up being taken away in handcuffs and locked behind bars. In reality, you could do something fairly minor—such as urinating in public—and find yourself in serious legal trouble and in need of a Boulder criminal defense attorney. Perhaps even worse, there are thousands of people serving life in prison for non-violent crimes, some of those crimes are relatively minor. According to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union, there are more than 3,200 people currently serving life in prison without parole for such non-violent crimes as:
- Possessing a crack pipe
- Having traces of cocaine in clothing pockets, invisible to the naked eye
- Possessing stolen wrenches
- Possessing stolen scrap metal
- Attempting to cash a stolen check
- Shoplifting two jerseys from an athletic store
- Making a drunken threat to a police officer while handcuffed in the back of the patrol car
- Taking a television, circular saw and power converter from a vacant house
Most all of us know that the above crimes are against the law, yet even for repeat offenders the punishment hardly seems to fit the crime. These examples show how mandatory sentencing could be way off track. But assume you are not a repeat offender and made one simple mistake that is coming back to haunt you in ways you would never have imagined. Suppose you are just an average, ordinary citizen who does your very best to obey the law and live a responsible life. Then one day…
- You are charged with Domestic Violence. Suppose you and your significant other are arguing about something pretty minor, the argument escalates, voices are raised, and you push the other person, who then falls down. A neighbor calls the police, and next thing you know you are being loaded into the back of a police car in handcuffs. In the state of Colorado, adding the domestic violence label brings a whole host of additional ramifications and penalties to existing penalties, and you could find yourself spending from 2-24 months in jail, after being charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- You are charged with Indecent Exposure. You could have done something as relatively innocent as going behind a bush to pee, thinking there was nobody else around. Someone sees you, and suddenly you are being charged with indecent exposure. While the statute states you must “knowingly” expose your genitals”, it can be tough to prove your intentions. While in most cases there will be no jail time for a first offense, you could potentially receive six to eighteen months in jail—and be required to register as a sex offender which could literally destroy the remainder of your life.
- You are charged with DUI. Of course everyone knows they should not drive drunk, but it doesn’t take many drinks to find yourself with a BAC above the legal limit. You may have just had a glass of wine or a couple of beers—suddenly, you found yourself attempting a Walk and Turn, One-Leg Stand or being asked to blow into a Breathalyzer. Field sobriety tests are notoriously unreliable, and Breathalyzer machines have their own set of problems. Even so, you could face long-term repercussions from a Colorado DUI conviction.
- You are charged with Assault and Battery. You and your buddies were having a great time, playing pool at the local bar. An intoxicated person in bar makes a rude comment, and suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a bar brawl, then having handcuffs snapped on. Depending on the level of injury sustained, you could be facing six months to twelve years in jail/prison, and fines as high as $750,000 if convicted.
- You are charged with Disturbing the Peace (also known as Disorderly Conduct). This charge can be for something as relatively harmless as “making a coarse or offensive utterance in public or unreasonable noise near private residences.” The penalties, should you be convicted of this offense, include a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. (If your conduct disrupted a funeral, the penalties increase)
- You are charged with Public Nuisance. Under Colorado law, this includes several behaviors, including behaviors which promote the sale of stolen items, drug dealing, illegal gambling or soliciting prostitution. Penalties can include a fine, jail time or both.
- You are charged with Harassment. Under Colorado law, harassment includes touching, taunting, speaking to in an obscene way, repeatedly calling someone on the telephone and hanging up or following someone. Harassment is a class 3 misdemeanor, with penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine.
- You are charged with shoplifting. Shoplifting an item valued at less than $500 can result in jail time between three months and one year and fines as large as $1,000. As the value of the items increase, so do the penalties.
There are many more examples of relatively minor crimes that can end up altering your future. If you think the offense is so petty that you couldn’t possibly get in that much trouble—think again. Call an experienced Colorado attorney who can protect your rights and ensure the punishment actually does fit the crime.
Contact Our Boulder Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Boulder, contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.