Charging Decision

“Charges” are legal allegations that a suspect has committed a specific criminal offense as defined by state law.

Criminal charges are filed against a defendant on behalf of “the People of the State of Colorado,” not on behalf of a specific person, and the alleged criminal acts are considered “offenses against the peace and dignity of the People of the State of Colorado,” not offenses against specific persons.

The decision whether to file and prosecute criminal charges, and what those charges should be, is the responsibility of the District Attorney, in accordance with the Colorado Constitution and state laws. 

This decision-making process is guided by legal and ethical standards which require a reasonable belief that the charge or charges can be proved to a unanimous jury beyond a reasonable doubt, after considering reasonable defenses.  The law requires the lower “probable cause” level of proof to make an arrest, but requires the higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” level of proof to file a formal charge. 

State misdemeanor and felony offense allegations are first investigated or filed by the Denver Police Department.  The District Attorney’s Office reviews cases presented to it or initially filed by the police, and evaluates whether there is enough evidence to support the charges to move forward with prosecution. The actual charges may differ from those originally recommended. The filing and prosecution decision will be made based upon the specific facts of each case, including the physical evidence, witness statements and expert opinions that could be presented to a jury.  These facts are evaluated and weighed against the specific language of the criminal statutes.

This review results in one of these outcomes:

  • The case may be accepted for the filing of criminal charges
  • The case may be refused for filing (for example, insufficient evidence)
  • There may be a request for additional investigative work that is needed before a filing decision can be made

The District Attorney’s Office must generally file charges within three business days of the arrest when the defendant is in custody, although an extension of time can be granted by the court.

If a determination is made that the facts do not support a reasonable belief the charge can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there is a legal and ethical duty to decline to file charges.  That duty also extends to dismissing a charge or charges if, in the course of a case, such as after further investigation or further review of the evidence, it is determined the charge(s) can no longer be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.



Statement Regarding Mr. Hal Hebert

Our office has become aware of flyers circulating in some Denver communities regarding this office’s prosecution of convicted murderer Mr. Hal Hebert.  Those flyers contain erroneous information about our office and prosecution team that need to be corrected.

We have confidence in the prosecution of Mr. Hebert and believe the jury correctly found him guilty of brutally murdering his wife, Carol Hebert. Because there was overwhelming evidence to support his conviction, a jury of twelve Denver citizens unanimously found beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty.  Thereafter, the case was repeatedly reviewed by various courts, including by the Colorado Court of Appeals.  To this day, Mr. Hebert’s conviction for First Degree Murder continues to be upheld as a valid conviction.

Most importantly, we strongly support the ethical and dedicated work of our prosecution team and DPD.  Contrary to these false claims, there is absolutely no evidence that any member of the prosecution team or law enforcement engaged in any wrongdoing.  Rather, they worked tirelessly in seeking justice for the victim Carol Hebert and her family.

Nevertheless, Mr. Hebert has asserted a claim of innocence.  Because our office does not have a conviction review unit, we referred this request to an outside organization to look at his case.  Mr. Hebert wrongfully contends that this referral means that our office believes he is innocent.  That is absolutely not the case.  We refer all requests for review to an outside organization.  Mr. Hebert’s case is no different than any other case.

At this time, the case has been under review for almost a year and to date, the reviewing organization has not provided us with any evidence that would suggest that Mr. Hebert was not guilty of First Degree Murder.  Nor has any evidence been presented that either the prosecutors and/or law enforcement engaged in any wrongdoing or unethical behavior.  We strongly believe that Mr. Hebert’s claims against the prosecutors and law enforcement on this case are without any merit whatsoever.

Any time a conviction is under review it has the very real potential of giving false hope to the offender and their supporters and of re-traumatizing the victim’s loved ones. The process calls into question the work of everyone involved – from the investigation, to the prosecution, and the defense. Reviewing a case can also unnecessarily damage careers and undermine the public’s trust in our system of justice. For all of these reasons it is critical that confidentiality be preserved until the work is complete.

Several other metro jurisdictions (JeffCo/Arapahoe/Douglas/Lincoln and Boulder) have conviction review units that are actively reviewing cases when there are claims of actual innocence. DA McCann has asked for budget approval so the Denver District Attorney’s Office may also establish a conviction review unit in order to undertake the important work of reviewing cases when such claims are presented.