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Colorado Post-Conviction Relief Guide

Colorado Post-Conviction Relief Guide_

Are you challenged by a past conviction in Colorado and hoping for relief? The term ‘Colorado post-conviction relief’ might be the beacon of hope you’re looking for.

This guide explains what you need to know, offering a direct path to potentially overturning your sentence or conviction. In clear steps, we’ll walk you through eligibility, procedures, and critical strategies to pursue justice. Start your journey to understanding post-conviction relief right here.

Key Points

  • Colorado post-conviction relief allows for judicial reconsideration of criminal convictions and may result in a new trial, reduced sentence, or overturned verdict. Timing, comprehensive detailing, and inclusion of all grounds in the initial filing are critical to this process.

  • Ineffective legal representation and newly discovered evidence, such as DNA, can support post-conviction relief, and changes in law or constitutional rights violations can justify reevaluating a case.

  • Post-conviction relief involves several stages, including the District Court’s review and potential appeal to the Appellate Court. Other remedies, including habeas corpus petitions and conditional release, offer additional avenues for challenging wrongful convictions.


Understanding Post-Conviction Relief in Colorado

Understanding Post-Conviction Relief in Colorado_

Post-conviction relief in Colorado allows for the reevaluation of the validity of criminal convictions. Through a 35(c) motion, a court is requested to reconsider a judgment or sentence. A successful motion could lead to various outcomes, including setting aside the judgment, reducing the sentence, or securing a new trial. To pursue post-conviction relief, one must follow legal procedures and guidelines.

However, this is only one of the options; alternatives include appeals to higher courts, new trial motions, sentence reconsideration motions, and federal writs of habeas corpus. 

The Essence of Post Conviction Relief

Post-conviction relief, often referred to as a 35(c) motion in Colorado, is a legal procedure that allows convicted individuals to challenge their verdicts or sentences.

This process allows asserting that someone’s constitutional rights were violated during their trial or sentencing. It opens doors for those who argue that an error within the judicial system impacted their conviction or punishment.

This form of relief can be pursued on several grounds, including illegal convictions or sentences, erroneous application of the law, lack of jurisdiction by the court over a case, newly discovered evidence with material significance, and fully served sentences, among others, ineffective assistance of counsel, and prosecutorial misconduct.

These provisions offer a ray of hope for rectifying injustices post-conviction.

Outcomes of Pursuing Relief

In the pursuit of justice, judges in Colorado have the authority to grant post-conviction relief, with options ranging from vacating the judgment to granting a new trial or imposing a new sentence. The district court plays an instrumental role in these proceedings, granting powers to vacate a judgment, set aside a sentence, or even conduct a new trial.

Thus, defendants can file motions for a new trial or motions for sentence reconsideration, potentially leading to conditional release if it’s deemed that the original trial was unjust, the sentence excessive, or an illegal sentence was imposed.

Filing Your Motion for Relief



Submitting a post-conviction relief motion in Colorado requires accurate and comprehensive detailing of the reasons for seeking judicial review on a specific application form. The stakes are high; presenting all grounds for relief in a single petition is critical, as subsequent motions are likely to be denied if the grounds could have been included in the initial filing.

Preparing Your Motion

The journey to post-conviction relief starts with a detailed four-page application, the primary document required to file a post-conviction relief motion in Colorado. This application can be accompanied by additional pages that comprehensively explain the grounds for judicial review.

Remember, every detail matters; it’s crucial to list all applicable grounds for relief in one petition, as failing to do so might lead to denying any grounds omitted.

Meeting the Filing Deadline

Time waits for no one, and this is particularly true when it comes to filing for post-conviction relief in Colorado. Whether it’s a class 1 felony, with no time limit for filing, or petty offenses with a 6-month window, meeting the filing deadlines is crucial to avoid losing the opportunity for relief. Punctuality is indeed a virtue when it comes to filing post-conviction relief motions.

Grounds for Seeking Post Conviction Relief

Judges weigh several factors before granting a 35(c) petition in Colorado. They consider the timeliness of the filing, whether there are adequate factual or legal grounds for relief, and if the claims made have merit based on the case’s files and records.

The judge also looks at whether granting relief serves the interests of justice, guiding their decision to potentially vacate judgments, order new trials, modify sentences, or discharge individuals.

The time frame for a judge to make a decision varies. Statute limitations dictate that petitions must be filed within specific periods post-conviction: six months for petty offenses, eighteen months for misdemeanors, three years for felonies excluding class 1 offenses which may be filed at any time.

Once submitted within these deadlines, judges take time necessary to thoroughly review each case’s particulars before making their rulings. This process ensures decisions are fair and justly serve both public interest and individual rights under Colorado law.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

After exploring the judge’s decision-making process, it’s important to consider that Colorado offers more ways for someone to seek relief after conviction. Beyond 35(c) motions, individuals might pursue a writ of habeas corpus if they believe their detention lacks legal basis. This powerful tool challenges the very right of the state to hold someone in custody and demands immediate review by a court.

Colorado also allows requests for sentence reconsideration and commutation of sentences as forms of post-conviction relief. Sentence reconsideration can lead to a reduced penalty if new factors come into play or if there was an oversight during sentencing.

On the other hand, commutation changes a sentence imposed by a court to one that is less severe but does not overturn the conviction itself. These options provide critical avenues for those seeking justice beyond traditional appeals or when new evidence emerges that could significantly impact their case outcomes.

Newly Discovered Evidence

Imagine uncovering new evidence that could prove your innocence after a conviction. Cases of DNA evidence exonerations have shown that newly discovered evidence can significantly alter post-conviction relief outcomes. The admissibility of such evidence is determined by a four-part test assessing whether the evidence could have been obtained with reasonable diligence before the trial, among other factors.

DNA evidence or another individual’s confession could effectively cast doubt on a defendant’s guilt, mainly if the original conviction rested on circumstantial evidence. Such new evidence obligates prosecutors to disclose it and rectify the conviction if necessary. This situation is expressly provided for in Title 16, Article 23 of C.R.S. 16-23-101.

The Role of the District Court and Appellate Court

The journey of post-conviction relief in Colorado moves through two critical stages: the District Court and the Appellate Court. The District Court initially reviews and rules on post-conviction relief motions, examining the evidence and legal arguments presented. If the District Court denies the motion, the defendant has the right to appeal to the Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court then reviews the District Court’s decision for any legal errors, focusing on the application of the law rather than the facts of the case. Hence, the defendant’s attorney may argue that the District Court misinterpreted the law, leading to an improper verdict or sentence.

District Court's Involvement

The District Court plays a central role in the post-conviction relief process. Post-conviction relief motions, referred to as 35(c) motions, are filed and initially reviewed by the District Court. Interestingly, the same district court that handled the original criminal case also reviews the 35(c) motion for post-conviction relief.

The hearings are conducted in the same court with general criminal jurisdiction, commonly the court where the conviction and sentencing were initially pronounced.

Appellate Court Review

If the District Court’s decision doesn’t go in your favor, all is not lost. This development is where the Appellate Court comes into play. The Appellate Court reviews the District Court’s decision for any legal errors, offering a second chance at justice.

This review focuses on the application of the law rather than the facts of the case, necessitating an attorney with specialized skills in appellate advocacy.

What Happens After Filing: The Court's Decision Process

What happens next after you file your motion for post-conviction relief? The court’s decision process involves a hearing phase where both the prosecution and the defense present their arguments and evidence in court.

Following the motion, the prosecution has 35 days to provide a written response. After that, the defendant has 21 days to submit a written reply. Typically, the court reaches a final decision within 63 days after the post-conviction relief hearing.

The Hearing Phase

The hearing phase of post-conviction relief in Colorado is a critical stage. During this phase, the applicant (petitioner) and the legal representative of the respondent (state/government) participate in arguing the case. Both the prosecution and the defense are allowed to present their arguments and evidence in court.

This phase is crucial as it allows the court to evaluate the motion’s merits and make an informed decision.

Judge's Decision-Making Criteria

After you file for post-conviction relief, the legal process continues as the prosecution reviews your claims and prepares a response, setting the stage for further action.

Additional Remedies Beyond Rule 35(c) Motions

The prosecution has a vital role in the post-conviction relief process under Colorado Rule 35(c). They must issue a written response to the motion within a specific timeframe, detailing their arguments and evidence against granting the relief sought by the convicted person.

This response can cover various issues, from challenging claims of ineffective assistance of counsel to addressing allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. The goal is to present a comprehensive counterargument that supports maintaining the original conviction.

During this phase, if the judge decides that a hearing is necessary based on initial submissions, prosecutors have another critical opportunity. They will present their case in detail, arguing why post-conviction relief should not be granted.

Their presentation includes evidence refutation and legal argumentation aiming to persuade the judge that the original trial’s outcome was just and fair. This step underscores how significant prosecutorial input is in shaping decisions related to post-conviction petitions.

Habeas Corpus and Its Role

Habeas corpus, a Latin term meaning ‘you may have the body,’ provides a legal pathway to challenge wrongful convictions or illegal imprisonment in Colorado. A federal writ of habeas corpus, filed in Colorado, functions similarly to a Rule 35(c) motion but is addressed in federal court.

Thus, understanding eligibility criteria, adhering to filing deadlines, and preparing necessary documents without error becomes crucial when filing a habeas corpus petition.

Conditional Release Options

Conditional release in Colorado is another avenue you can explore. Options here can include:

  • Employment during reasonable hours for those convicted of a crime

  • Participation in day-reporting or residential reentry programs

  • Alternative sentencing that allows for continuation of work, substance abuse treatment, and maintaining community connections.

Extensions for filing a post-conviction relief motion may also be granted under circumstances such as missing the deadline due to adjudicated incompetence or receiving mental illness treatment.

Legal Representation

Navigating the complex post-conviction relief process can be daunting. Having a legal expert by your side can make all the difference. Legal representation is crucial for understanding the complexities of the process, ensuring the protection of rights, and increasing chances of success.

Post-conviction attorneys, with their detailed knowledge of state and federal laws, can advocate on behalf of their clients and rectify past case errors. The complex and costly nature of the post-conviction relief process makes dedicated and skilled legal representation all the more necessary.

McClintock Law Firm, LLC offers free consultations, providing invaluable insights into legal options and the potential success of the case in criminal appeals.

Choosing the Right Attorney

The choice of an attorney can significantly influence the outcome of your post-conviction relief case. An attorney who specializes in post-conviction relief can provide:

  • Expert guidance

  • Representation

  • Advice on gathering evidence

  • Constructing a compelling legal argument

Choosing a law office specializing in Colorado criminal appeals will connect you with the specific legal experience you need. During consultations, you can evaluate the cost and expertise of the appellate attorneys under consideration to make a financially informed decision.

Benefit of Free Consultations

Free consultations offer a vital opportunity to:

  • Discuss the specifics of your case with a legal expert

  • Gain insight into potential outcomes and the likelihood of achieving a successful result

  • Assess the strength of your claim for post-conviction relief

  • Make informed decisions about pursuing legal action without initially investing resources

These consultations provide valuable information and help you make the best decisions for your case. They allow individuals to understand their options and take the first step toward justice without initial financial commitment.


Navigating the post-conviction relief process in Colorado may seem like navigating a labyrinth. However, with the right guidance, understanding, and legal representation, it can be a journey that can lead to justice. Whether through a 35(c) motion, habeas corpus petition, or conditional release, there are multiple paths to challenging convictions or sentences.

Remember, seeking professional legal help isn’t just a choice; it’s necessary in this complex process. We invite you to take advantage of a free consultation with our law office to understand your legal options fully. So, take that first step, arm yourself with knowledge, and remember that every fight for justice, no matter how daunting, is worth fighting.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I file a 35 C in Colorado?

Take your completed form to the court and give it to the clerk to file your case. There is no filing fee. If the court does not deny your request immediately, the court will send a copy of your Petition to the prosecuting attorney and they will have an opportunity to respond.

2. What is the most common type of post-conviction relief?

The most common type of post-conviction relief is a series of motions, including a Motion for a New Trial and a Motion to Vacate Judgment. These motions are filed to challenge a conviction or sentence.

3. What is post-conviction relief in Colorado?

In Colorado, post-conviction relief is a legal process that reevaluates the validity of criminal convictions, typically through a 35(c) motion requesting the court to reconsider a judgment or sentence.

4. What is the difference between post-conviction relief and a direct appeal?

Post-conviction relief deals with new issues not raised during the trial or previous appeals, while a direct appeal requests a higher court to review the original case for legal errors. Understanding the distinction between the two processes is essential.

5. What is a habeas corpus petition?

A habeas corpus petition is a legal tool used to challenge wrongful convictions or illegal imprisonment, filed in federal court to address such concerns.

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