Being arrested for a crime (or having a family member who has been arrested) can be extremely scary and stressful. Many of your questions may relate to what happens next. Knowing the MA criminal court process can be helpful. The following is a general overview of what happens and in what order.
Arrest & Processing
When you are arrested, you are normally searched at that time and read your Miranda Rights. Once at the jail, law enforcement personnel will process you into the system. This can include a mug shot, fingerprints, etc. Depending on the severity of the crime, you may be able to make bail at this time. You may want to request an attorney to assist you with what you will be facing from this point forward.
Arraignment & Bail
An arraignment is a formal court hearing. You will be informed of the specific crime for which you are charged and may enter a plea. If you do not have an attorney yet, then the court normally enters a plea of “not guilty” on your behalf. If you do have an attorney, he/she will discuss the legal ramifications of your plea and assist you with entering one.
Bail is typically discussed at the arraignment (or revisited if it was already set after your arrest). Depending again on the severity of the crime and on the judge’s confidence in your likelihood of appearing at future court hearings, he/she may…
- Release you on your own recognizance, meaning no money is required.
- Set bail at a certain amount due in cash, bond, or some other form.
- Deny bail, which means you will remain in jail until your next court appearance.
Pretrial Conference & Hearings in MA
A pretrial conference includes you, your attorney, and the prosecutor (or their representative). Important court documentation is completed at this time. Additionally, details of the case and potential plea bargains may be discussed. Legal representation is extremely important. You should fully understand the terms and ramifications of a plea bargain as well as other possible scenarios should you not accept one. There are additional hearings that take place before the trial. Jury selection will occur immediately before the trial begins. In many cases, a plea bargain is worked out and accepted during this early stage of the MA criminal court process and before an actual trial.
MA Criminal Trial Proceedings
The length of a trial can vary from a few days or several weeks or months. It depends on the type of case, amount of evidence to be presented, and number of witnesses that are called. Both the prosecution and defense will have an opportunity to present their case via opening statements, presentation of evidence through witnesses, and closing arguments. You may or may not testify on your own behalf. This is a decision that you must make with the counsel of your criminal attorney. Upon completion of the trial, a verdict of either guilty or not guilty may be rendered. In rare cases, if a verdict is not reached, a mistrial may be declared by the judge.
If you are found guilty of a crime, sentencing may take place immediately or at a separate hearing. For misdemeanor crimes or those with mandatory sentences, it is often issued right away. For crimes where the judge has a range of options for sentencing, it may take place at a later time. Victim impact statements and other factors may influence the judge’s final decision on sentencing.
Depending on the crime and what took place at the trial, it may be possible to appeal the verdict and sentence. An experienced MA criminal lawyer can advise you on your options and answer your questions. The MA criminal attorneys at Martino Law Group understand the Massachusetts criminal court process and will work to protect your rights.