The Criminal Court Process

Being charged with a crime can be a traumatic and disorienting experience, but understanding the legal process might help ease anxiety and uncertainty. If you find yourself in this situation in Massachusetts, it's essential to know what to expect throughout the stages of arraignment, pre-trial hearings, criminal trials, and if necessary the sentencing/post-trial phase. 

Arraignment: The First Step

The criminal court journey begins with your arraignment, typically within 24 hours of your arrest, unless you are summoned for a particular date. This is when you'll formally be charged. It is a critical moment, as it sets the tone for the rest of your legal proceedings. During the arraignment, the judge will:

  • Inform you of the charges against you
  • Advise you of your rights, including the right to an attorney
  • Determine bail, if applicable, or release conditions 
  • Set a date for the first Pre-trial hearing

The arraignment is not the time to present your defense but to understand the charges against you and make preliminary decisions about bail or release.  

Pre-Trial Hearings: Building Your Defense

After the arraignment, you'll enter the pre-trial phase. This period can be lengthy, allowing your attorney time to investigate the case, gather evidence, and strategize your defense. Key components of the pre-trial phase include:

  • Discovery: Both the prosecution and defense exchange evidence and information regarding the case, including witness statements, police reports, and physical evidence.
  • Motion Hearings: Your attorney may file motions to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or address other legal issues. These motions can significantly impact your case's outcome.
  • Plea Bargaining: Often prosecutors and defense attorneys negotiate plea deals to resolve the case without going to trial. This may involve reduced charges or a recommended sentence. 

Criminal Trials: Facing a Jury

If your case is not dismissed, a plea agreement cannot be reached, or if you choose to make the prosecution prove their case, you'll face a criminal trial.The trial process in Massachusetts involves the following stages:

  • Jury Selection: A panel of impartial jurors will be selected to hear your case.
  • Opening Statements: Both the prosecution and defense will present their opening statements, outlining their respective cases.
  • Presentation of Evidence: Witnesses will testify and present evidence to support or refute the charges against you.
  • Closing Arguments: Attorneys will summarize their cases and argue why the jury should rule in their favor.
  • Verdict: The jury will deliberate and return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If found not guilty, also called “acquitted”, you will be released. If found guilty, the case moves to the sentencing phase.

Sentencing and Post-Trial Phase: Dealing with Consequences

If you are convicted, the court will hold a separate sentencing hearing to determine your punishment. Usually this occurs immediately after the verdict. Sentencing can vary widely based on the severity of the crime, your criminal history, and other factors. Possible penalties include fines, probation, community service, or imprisonment.

After sentencing, you have the right to appeal your conviction or sentence, though the process can be lengthy and complex. An experienced attorney can guide you through the appeals process if you believe errors occurred during your trial.

Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Navigating the legal system after getting arrested in Massachusetts can be daunting, but knowing what to expect at each stage can provide some clarity and peace of mind. It's important to remember that you have the right to legal representation throughout the entire process, from arraignment to post-trial appeals. If you've been arrested and are now facing criminal charges, consult with attorney H. Ernest Stone to protect your rights and build a strong defense.

Contact us today to get a free consultation

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.