Frequently Asked Questions

If you or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of criminal charges, you might have questions about what might happen next. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding criminal defense in Massachusetts:

How does bail work? 
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Bail is an amount of money you must deposit with the Court to ensure you return for all future court dates. If you attend all hearings and trail, the bail is returned to the personal who posted it with the Court.

How can I get my case dismissed? 
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There are various ways to get a case dismissed in Massachusetts. The first is convincing the prosecutor that the evidence does not not overcome the "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden; most of the time, this requires investigation to show that the facts are not what they originally appeared to be when the case was first filed.

A second way to convince a prosecutor to dismiss the criminal charges is to provide additional information showing that there was a lawful defense, e.g. self-defense, defense of others, or even legal necessity.

A third way to have a case dismissed is to either and complete a specialty court program, such as Veterans' Court or Drug Court.

Another way to get a case dismissed is to file a motion to suppress evidence, challenging the way in which police obtained the evidence being used to prosecute you. If a judge agrees that the evidence was obtained illegally, i.e. unconstitutionally, that evidence will be "suppressed" and can no longer be used by the prosecution. If that evidence is necessary to their case and it's gone, that means the prosecution can no longer prove their case anymore and they will be forced to dismiss.

A case can also be Continued Without a Finding, which is when you make an admission to sufficient facts to support a guilty finding but you do not plead guilty and no conviction enters on the record. You are placed on probation, and after the successful completion of the probation period, the charge is dismissed.

What should you do when you are falsely accused of a crime? 
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Consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. Remember, though, that lawyers are not created equal, and not all lawyers have the necessary experience, and the local knowledge (e.g. Massachusetts Courts) to be of real assistance. You wouldn't go to a foot doctor for a heart problem.

A lot of people think: "I know I didn't do anything wrong, so I have nothing to worry about." Unfortunately, our system is not that perfect. If you aren't convince, look up the various Innocence Projects through the country that have exonerated wrongfully convicted people. People who were innocent, spoke to the police to tell their truth, and were still arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted, and sent to prison.

When should I call a criminal defense lawyer?
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Immediately, anytime you are accused of a crime. Whether it's an accusation that has been made directly to you, in the community, or if you have already been contacted by law enforcement ( a call or a business card left at your door). The earlier in the process you contact a criminal defense lawyer, the better. A lot of criminal cases exist because of mistakes people make in not asserting their right at the very early stages, when they try to "tell their side of the story" or "explain" what happened to the police.

What is a felony in Massachusetts?
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In Massachusetts, a felony is any charge that can be punished by a state prison sentence. Felonies can be indicted and prosecuted in Superior Court, but they can also be prosecuted in the District Court. All other crimes are Misdemeanors.

How can I get my case dismissed?
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There are various ways to get a case dismissed in Massachusetts. The first is convincing the prosecutor that the evidence does not overcome the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden; most of the time, this requires investigation to show that the facts are not what they originally appeared to be when the case was first filed.

A second way to convince a prosecutor to dismiss the criminal charges is to provide additional information showing that there was a lawful defense, e.g. self-defense, defense of others, or even legal necessity.

A third way to have a case dismissed is to enter and complete a specialty court program, such as Veterans’ Court or Drug Court.

Another way to get a case dismissed is to file a motion to suppress evidence, challenging the way in which police obtained the evidence being used to prosecute you. If a judge agrees that the evidence was obtained illegally, i.e. unconstitutionally, that evidence will be “suppressed” and can no longer be used by the prosecution. If that evidence is necessary to their case and it’s gone, that means the prosecution can no longer prove their case anymore and they will be forced to dismiss.

A case can also be Continued Without a Finding, which is when you make an admission to
sufficient facts to support a guilty finding but you do not plead guilty and no conviction enters on the record. You are placed on probation, and after the successful completion of the probation period, the charge is dismissed.

What happens if police don't read me my Miranda Rights? 
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The first question that has to be asked is: “when does a cop have to read you your Miranda
rights?” Law enforcement must read you your rights when there is a “custodial interrogation.” That means that you are not free to leave, and law enforcement is asking you questions designed to have you talk about the crime they think you committed. Determining whether you were “in custody” for purposes of a Miranda violation is not always simple or obvious, and a criminal defense lawyer will have to argue different factors to convince the judge that their client was, in fact, in custody at the time of the interrogation.

Two important examples of when Miranda rights DO NOT have to be read are:

Traffic stops. During a traffic stop, questions such as- where you are coming from? What you have been doing? Have you had anything to drink?- are all legal and your responses will be used against you.

When you are invited to talk to police, and you accept the invitation. During a criminal investigation, a police officer (many times a detective) will call you and ask for a meeting. They may say they want to hear your side of the story. If you are speaking to police willingly and can leave at any time, judges will usually allow any statements to be used against you in a criminal prosecution.

If, however, you are taken into custody (arrested) and law enforcement asks you questions about a crime they suspect you committed, and you give incriminating statements without
having first being read your Miranda rights, your criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress those statements. If the motion is granted, the prosecution would be barred from being able to use those statements against you. The exception is that they can still use them if you testify at trial and say something different than what you previously told police.

Can I be arrested without evidence? 
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Probable cause is the standard necessary for an arrest. That is lower than what’s necessary for a conviction (beyond a reasonable doubt). There must be enough evidence, taken as true, to show that it is more likely than not that you have committed a crime. Many people do not understand that “evidence” can be simply a person’s accusation. So yes, even if it is “just their word against mine”, that can be sufficient evidence to support probable cause. The law says that one person’s testimony, if believed, can prove a fact. As such, a jury, in theory, could convict based on the testimony of one witness if their testimony supports all of the elements of the charged crime.

What Does it Mean if I Receive a Summons to Appear for an Arraignment?
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A summons to appear in court is an order that you show up to court on a particular day. If the summons is for an Arraignment, it means you are being charged with a crime and the date on the summons is the date on which the criminal court process will begin.  If you were arrested and released from custody, either on bail or personal recognizance, you may be given a “recognizance” to appear in court. This si much like a summons. If you were not arrested but the police believe you have committed a crime, you will receive a summons in the mail with a date to appear in court for your arraignment.  This is a critical stage of the criminal process, and it is best to contact an attorney right away toassist you. Once you have received your summons you will be expected to appear on the date given by the court. If you do not appear a warrant will issue for your arrest.

What is a "grand jury"?
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A group of citizens reviewing evidence presented by prosecutors in secret to determine if there is enough to charge someone with a felony. If the Grand Jury finds that probable cause has been established, the Superior Court will issue an Indictment against the Defendant. The Indictment states the criminal charges.

What happens at my first court appearance/date?
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The first hearing after you are arrested or summonsed to court is called the “arraignment.” At the arraignment, the document listing your criminal charges will be filed (that document is called “the Complaint”). Almost without exception, a NOT-GUILTY plea will be entered for you.  You and your lawyer will receive a copy of the Complaint and any police reports filed to support it.  Two other topics will be covered: The first is your custody or release status. If you’ve been arrested and are in custody (jail), the judge will decide if you will get released upon posting a cash bail, and if so, how much it will be; or, the judge could decide that you should be released without having to post bail at all (best case scenario). If you are out of jail, the judge can decide whether to impose bail conditions or even raise bail previously posted. Depending on the type of case, the prosecutor could ask that you be held in custody for a “Dangerousness Hearing” to determine if you pose a danger to a specific person or the public, and therefore should be held in custody. The second topic will be the scheduling of two future court dates: a Pretrial hearing or a preliminary hearing, depending upon the charge(s). The arraignment is not a time when you would speak to the judge about the case or profess your innocense beyond the Not Guilty plea being entered.

Can I change lawyers in the middle of a case?
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Yes, you can change lawyers while your case is ongoing. Ultimately, the Judge will have to approve a change of lawyers, but if it is not on e eve of trial, it is likely that you will be allowed to make a change.

What is a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?
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In Massachusetts, a Clerk Magistrate Hearing, also called a Show Cause Hearing, is a hearing where a Magistrate will review evidence such as testimony and documents, to determine whether a criminal charge should be issued against an individual. This kind of hearing occurs most often when the police file an Application for Complaint seeking to charge someone with a crime, when they did not witness the crime being committed. The individual being accused of the crime may appear and present evidence or argue against the issuance of the criminal charge. The Magistrate must decide if the police have presented enough evidence to satisfy probable cause that a crime was committed and who committed it. This means that the allegation is “more likely than not” true. If the Magistrate finds probable cause has been established, then a summons will issue to the Defendant ordering him or her to appear in court at a later date for an Arraignment on the criminal charge. Sometimes, an experienced lawyer can convince a Magistrate not to issue a Complaint even if there may be enough evidence for probable cause. It is critical if you are involved in a Clerk Magistrate Hearing that you get the assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney to represent you in these proceedings, as resolving the case at this level can save time, money, and anxiety.

What is a pretrial conference or pretrial hearing in a criminal case?
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In Massachusetts, after criminal charges have been filed and a defendant has been arraigned, the court will schedule a pretrial conference or a pretrial hearing. These are similar events at which the prosecution and the defense attorneys meet to exchange evidence and to discuss the legal issues presented in the case. There may be several pretrial hearing dates in a case.

What is a “compliance and election” or C&E date in a criminal case?
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In Massachusetts, a C&E date is the date set by the Court by which the prosecution must turn over to the defense all of the information it has about a criminal case.

What is a "bench trial"?
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A trial without a jury where the judge determines not only questions of law, but what facts have been proven, and the judge decides the verdict.

Should I hire a lawyer even if I’m guilty? 
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Guilty means very specific things I a criminal case. It means that the prosecutor can prove at trial, with admissible evidence, each and every element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt, including your intent. So, having a criminal lawyer that is skilled at challenging the evidence can mean that you can avoid a guilty finding, regardless of how the case looks to you in the beginning. 

But, even if a case can be proven against you, there is always the question of punishment. What’s a fair and appropriate sentence? Sentencing is all about fitting a punishment to the individual who committed the offense. A judge must consider each person individually, taking into consideration their history, any mitigating circumstances, mental health, etc. A locally experienced criminal defense lawyer who has established positive relationships with judgesand prosecutors in the courthouse where your case will be heard, and who knows what a criminal case is really “worth,” can best advocate for you. Whether it’s alternatives to jail, a treatment program instead of jail, or building effective mitigation in your case, you want a team who cares and has a record of getting their clients great results.

What happens if I violate a term of my probation? 
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If you violate one of the terms of probation, the Probation Department can seek a warrant for your arrest for a Probation Violation. They can also ask the Court to issue a Summons for a Probation Violation Hearing.  At a Probation Violation Hearing, a judge will determine if you have in fact violated the terms of your probation, and if so, he will decide what the punishment for that violation will be.

How are sex offenders classified in Massachusetts?
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Offenders are classified into one of three levels based on the risk they pose to the public: Level 1 (low risk), Level 2 (moderate risk), and Level 3 (high risk). The classification is determined by the Sex Offender Registration Board (SORB) after an evaluation of each offender's criminal history and other relevant factors.

Is the public allowed to access information about all registered sex offenders in Massachusetts?
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Not all. Information about Level 1 offenders is not publicly accessible. Information about Level 2 and Level 3 offenders can be accessed by the public, with Level 3 offender information being more widely disseminated due to their higher risk classification.

What are the consequences for failing to register as a sex offender in Massachusetts, or for failing to update registration information?
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Failing to register, re-register, or provide accurate information is a crime in Massachusetts. Convicted individuals can face imprisonment, fines, or both. Failure to register can result in up to five years in state prison.

Can a sex offender challenge their classification level in Massachusetts? 
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Yes, offenders have the right to appeal their classification. The appeal is heard by a board or a court, depending on the circumstances. Also, offenders can petition to have their classification lowered after a certain amount of time has passed since their last classification.

What is the difference between probation and parole? 
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Probation is a penalty given instead of jail time. Parole is early release from prison with certain conditions. Probation and Parole are different things, and they are administered by different Departments.

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Contact our team today for a free consultation. Contact us through our website or call (978) 705 4537.

We are available 24/7. We can help you through this storm.