The Massachusetts Criminal Arraignment Process

It’s easy for attorneys to take for granted the knowledge they have regarding a criminal arraignment. After all, they may find themselves in court several times a week, so the process is second nature to them. Unless you have been involved in a criminal legal process, the things that go on during a hearing can be shrouded in mystery. Let’s examine the process and review what one can expect during an arraignment.

The Probation Department

Prior to being arraigned, those who are summonsed or arrested are required to check in with the probation department. This visit is used to collect and confirm your information, such as your address, date of birth, the correct spelling of your name, your place of employment, and information about your net worth. This information is used to run a criminal records check to create a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) for the judge and district attorney to view. Individuals who do not complete this initial process will not have their case called.

Determining Bail

The nature of the charges brought against you and your criminal history will determine whether or not bail needs to be set. The purpose of bail in Massachusetts is not punitive, but instead to ensure the defendant’s appearance back in court. Should you have a minimal history with the court and/or appear under a summons, then you will likely be released on personal recognizance or minimal bail. The more serious the penalty and the longer the history with the court, then the more likely bail will be sought. The bail details can be discussed between your lawyer and the assistant district attorney prior to the arraignment. Prior to being arraigned, defendants are advised to meet with a lawyer to discuss the facts of the case and disclose any prior convictions. This will provide lawyers with enough time to present the judge with a favorable argument for your release on personal recognizance or an affordable bail.

Entering a Plea

In Massachusetts, individuals don’t have to worry about entering a not guilty plea in state District Court. The clerk who calls the arraignments typically performs this task on your behalf when your case gets called. Upon arraignment in Superior Court, the individual is expected to verbalize a plea of guilty or not guilty on his own behalf.

Continuing Your Arraignment

Once an individual is arraigned, court records will show an open criminal case. This means employers may have access to this information, potentially resulting in a suspension from your job or possible termination. For individuals who may be negatively impacted by having an open criminal case, your lawyer can request a continuance of your arraignment. This is only possible if the prosecutor agrees with it and does not object and request the arraignment move forward. Make sure to speak with your lawyer about this option prior to arraignment.

Resolve Your Case Prior to Arraignment

There are instances where individuals can resolve their case before arraignment, although generally not frequent and not advisable. This will ensure the individual is not associated with an open criminal case for a period of time, but also limits the ability of the lawyer to examine the case and evidence against the individual. Speak with your lawyer to find out if resolving your case prior to arraignment is an advisable option.

Our office is committed to defending the accused and protecting your rights. If you have to appear in court or have been charged with a crime, contact us right away so we can discuss your legal options.

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