Criminal Justice 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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.)

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.


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.


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.