Published: Feb. 12, 2024

Court HouseAs a CU Boulder student, you may find yourself facing various situations that involve the court system. Whether it’s a traffic offense, criminal charge, civil lawsuit or appearing as a witness, it’s essential to understand the nuances of the legal system. Student Legal Services (SLS) can be a valuable resource in navigating those complexities.  

Here’s a guide to help you understand the court system and how SLS can help.  

When you may need to go to court 

Traffic offenses 
If you receive a traffic ticket, it’s crucial to distinguish the difference between traffic offenses and infractions. Traffic offenses, such as careless or reckless driving, require a court appearance. However, traffic infractions, like low-level speeding or running a stop sign, generally do not necessitate a court appearance unless you decide to contest the charges. 

Criminal charges 
Criminal charges include municipal violations, petty offenses, misdemeanors and felonies. A felony is the most serious type of charge someone can face, while misdemeanors, petty offenses and municipal violations are considered less serious crimes, in that order. It’s crucial to recognize the gravity of the charges you might face. SLS can provide guidance on the appropriate legal steps to take and, in many situations, represent you in court. 

Civil lawsuits 
According to the Boulder County Bar Association, “Unlike criminal cases, which always involve the government seeking to punish an individual defendant, civil cases usually involve disputes between private parties, in which one side is asking a court to require the other side to do something.” This could include seeking money as damages from your landlord or defending against a debt collector.  

Appearing as a witness 
If you have been subpoenaed as a witness in a case and you have questions or concerns, contact SLS to schedule an appointment. 

Types of courts and jurisdictions 

The type of case, where the incident occurred and level of seriousness is vital for determining where your case may be heard. The different local courts and their jurisdictions are: 

  • Municipal Court: Deals with city ordinance violations, including city traffic cases, covering both infractions and offenses. 
  • Small Claims Court: Handles civil cases with claims of $7,500 or less. 
  • County Court: Manages state traffic cases, petty offenses, misdemeanors, and civil cases with claims up to $25,000. 
  • District Court: Handles felony cases and civil cases exceeding $25,000. 

Where to find court forms, police reports and Colorado arrest record 

Court forms 
Boulder Municipal Court and the Colorado Judicial Branch websites offer court forms online. However, you should keep in mind that this online information is not a substitute for advice from a licensed Colorado attorney. Before filing or responding to a lawsuit, consult with SLS. 

Police reports 
You can get most police reports online from the law enforcement agency that investigated the case. Check the agency's website for details on ordering reports electronically. 

Colorado arrest records 
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) records website is the primary source for Colorado arrest records. 

Visit SLS’s website for more resources

Reporting incidents 

If you witness a crime or are a victim, report the incident to either the CU Boulder Police Department or Boulder Police by calling 9-1-1 or filing a report online. 

CU Boulder has specific resources to report incidents such as sexual assault, stalking and abuse, discrimination and harassment, and hazing. Visit Don’t Ignore It to report a concern for yourself or a friend. You can find support resources if you are impacted by a harmful incident on that website as well.