Mission and Clients
The Criminal Defense Clinic offers law students the opportunity to represent indigent clients charged with misdemeanor and municipal offenses in Boulder and Jefferson Counties. The clinic provides high-quality legal services to clients and serves the community at large by providing legal assistance to those too poor to otherwise afford a lawyer.
Students advocate on behalf of their clients in court, from bail advisements, to motions hearings, to trials. The clinic has a seminar component in which students learn substantive criminal law and trial practice, from the use of evidence in the courtroom to creative motions practice. Students also have the opportunity to discuss social issues relevant to the practice of criminal defense, such as the intersection of poverty, race and crime, the increasing importance of immigration concerns in the criminal defense context, and recent Supreme Court cases affecting the 4th and 5th Amendment rights of criminal defendants.
In the clinical component, students begin their cases with jail advisements. Students go to the jail to meet with newly arrested clients and argue for their release on bond. Students then investigate their client's case, develop a case strategy, and negotiate with a prosecuting attorney about possible plea bargains. Students may have the opportunity to represent their clients at a jury trial, where students pick the jury, make opening statements and closing arguments, and direct and cross-examine witnesses. Through their case work, students are able to learn first-hand about the many dimensions of the client-lawyer relationship, from the initial interview, to case investigation, to final resolution of the criminal charges.
This Clinic is offered in a one-semester version and a two-semester version. Generally, the one-semester version is faster paced. Each clinic is limited to 12 students. In both versions, the professors work closely with the students on all aspects of the cases and accompany the student attorney to all contested hearings and trials in the courts.
Type of Legal Assistance
The majority of cases are traffic, driving under the influence, and domestic violence-related charges. However, clients run the gamut. Students may represent a homeless person charged with illegal camping who has a severe alcohol dependency issue, a person changed with a domestic violence-related assault whose partner is now recanting his or her initial allegation or a client charged with his third Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol offense and who is facing a loss of his license and a loss of his liberty. Regardless of the name of the charge, it is the clients who make the work meaningful and interesting.