If you have been charged with a crime in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the Massachusetts courts and their different laws. It can be very overwhelming for a person charged with a crime who is not used to being in that situation. That is why it is important to hire an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney to help you throughout the process of being charged with a crime. Attorney David Ellison has spent nearly his whole career representing clients in Massachusetts who have been charged with crime. He began his career as a Public Defender in Massachusetts and learned the different complexities of the Massachusetts criminal legal system.
What is the Process for a Criminal Charge in Massachusetts?
The process in how a criminal case is handled comes from the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The criminal process starts in Massachusetts nearly every time from a Massachusetts Police Department applying for a criminal complaint from their local Clerk's Office. There are Massachusetts Police Prosecutors assigned to the various courts from the different Police Departments who initiate the process by applying for a complaint. Usually, a Clerk Magistrate reviews the applications for probable cause to determine whether or not the charge can go forward. For a case to start in District Court, a complaint must be brought. For a case to be brought in Superior Court, the defendant must be indicted (or waive indictment).
Some charges start with a Clerk Magistrate's Hearing. This is a hearing to determine whether to not there is probable cause for a complaint to issue. Only certain charges are eligible for a Clerk Magistrate's hearing. You can read more about Clerk Magistrate's Hearings in Massachusetts here. If you get notice for a Clerk Magistrate's Hearing, do not wait to reach out to a lawyer, because this is a great opportunity to potentially avoid having a criminal charge move forward against you. You can be represented by a lawyer at Clerk Magistrate's Hearing.
What is an Arraignment in Massachusetts?
If probable cause is found, you will have the opportunity for an Arraignment. At an Arraignment, a few key things happen, and the court will do the following:
- read the charges to the defendant in open court, except that the reading of the charges in open court may be waived by the defendant if he or she is represented by counsel;
- enter the defendant's plea to the charges;
- inform the defendant of all warnings and advisories required by law;
- determine the conditions of the defendant's release, if any; and
- determine if the defendant will retain an attorney, be appointed one or represent themselves.
What is a Pretrial in Massachusetts?
After your Arraignment, if a Defense Attorney has entered their appearance, the court will order a date for a Pretrial Conference for the Prosecutor and Defense Attorney to conference the case. At the Pretrial Conference date, the following are the main things that the prosecution and defense attorney will discuss:
- any outstanding discovery that is owed to the Defendant (this is evidence the prosecution may have) that is covered by law for the prosecution to give to the defense;
- whether there will be a change of plea;
- the scheduling of the next event.
What is a Plea Deal in Massachusetts?
A plea deal is when the Defendant agrees to change their plea from not guilty to an admission of guilt, in exchange for a certain sentence recommendation from the prosecution or the judge. This may be done for various reasons. For instance, the prosecution may agree to no jail time or no criminal conviction or to certain conditions of probation, etc. in exchange for the change of plea from the defendant.
It is important to have a lawyer help negotiate a plea deal for you. Lawyers have experience negotiating plea deals and have a better understanding of what to ask for from the prosecutor or the judge.
Most plea deals in Massachusetts require you to waive your rights, so it is important to discuss this with a lawyer prior to entering a plea agreement.
What is a Motion to Suppress Hearing in Massachusetts?
A Motion to Suppress in Massachusetts is an opportunity to have a hearing as to whether the defendant's rights were violated in some way and, as a result, some evidence should be suppressed and not used against the Defendant. There are different types of Motions to Suppress, including, a Motion to Suppress Statements, a Motion to Suppress a Search Warrant, a Motion to Suppress a Search and Seizure, etc.
Depending on the type of Motion it is, the defendant may be able to get an evidentiary hearing, where there will be testimony from witnesses, likely from the police, who will testify as to what they may have done on a case.
Attorney David Ellison has represented many defendants in his career on Motions to Suppress in Massachusetts. He has had statements thrown out in court, evidence of drugs suppressed, and search warrants ruled invalid. If you feel your rights have been violated, do not hesitate to contact Massachusetts Suppression Lawyer David Ellison today at 401-230-5520.
What is a Trial in Massachusetts?
A trial is the most important right a defendant has when they are facing a criminal charge. When you have a criminal charge, you always have the right to have a jury trial. You can also waive the right to a jury (with approval of the court) and have a "bench trial" where the judge decides the facts and the law of the case.
At a trial, the defense lawyer and prosecutor have an opportunity to file Motions prior to the trial beginning. These Motions, for example, might seek an evidentiary ruling prior to the trial beginning. The judge will make preliminary rulings on certain evidence based on the Motions the attorneys file.
After Motions, the lawyers will make opening statements to give a road map as to how they see the evidence coming out throughout trial. This is the first opportunity for the jury or judge to hear what the case is truly about. The lawyers will then call witnesses and present evidence to the court. Once this is complete, the lawyers are allowed to make closing statements.
The prosecution has to prove their case on each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Please read this blog post: What Does Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Mean?
It is very important to discuss with a lawyer whether or not you want to take a plea deal or go to trial. Both will have their pros and cons.
What Types of Crimes Do We Handle in Massachusetts?
Attorney David Ellison represents clients on all types of Massachusetts crimes and procedures, including the following:
Massachusetts Sealing and Expungement
Any criminal charge is a serious matter that requires a serious response. Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney David Ellison focuses his practice on the defense of individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony criminal offenses throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If you are charged with a crime in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, contact Attorney David Ellison today at 401-230-5520.