You may have become a witness to a Massachusetts criminal or civil matter, and you may not understand what your options are. You can hire an attorney to help you navigate the legal system as a witness. If you have a lawyer by your side, they can help to explain the process of what is happening to help ease your anxiety and answer any questions you may have. Attorney David Ellison has represented many clients in his career with respect to Massachusetts legal proceedings where his clients were witnesses. There are many scenarios where somebody may want a lawyer when they are a witness. Here are a few listed below:
Massachusetts Summons Lawyer
If you receive a summons to testify at a legal proceeding, you can have a Massachusetts witness representation lawyer help you. They can help explain what your options are and help you to understand what legal obligations yo have with respect to the summons, and what legal rights you have when appearing in court to testify. For example, a person may have a Fifth Amendment privilege, spousal privilege or other privilege not to testify. A lawyer can help explain these rights to you and the best way to proceed. The lawyer can also appear with you in court.
Your summons could also mean that you are about to be charged with a crime. It could be for a Massachusetts Criminal Arraignment or for a Massachusetts Clerk Magistrate's Hearing. So it is important to reach out to a Massachusetts summons lawyer if you receive a Massachusetts summons to help you understand what is going on.
Massachusetts Criminal Investigations Lawyer
If Massachusetts police want to ask you questions relating to a criminal investigation, your should contact an experienced witness representation lawyer as soon as possible. You may be innocent, but you may say something that starts to put the blame towards you. It is very stressful to answer questions from a police officer. If the police are asking you questions, you can have an attorney representing you throughout the investigation.
An attorney can be your voice during the investigations. Depending on the circumstances, an attorney can help guide you on what questions to answer and which ones you may not want to answer. They can also help to get a better idea of what is being investigated. An attorney can help you avoid the mistake many people make -- people can talk themselves into things rather than talk their way out of it.
Lawyer for a Witness at a Massachusetts Trial
If you are summonsed to testify as a witness at a Massachusetts trial, it is important that you know what your rights are. Many people get nervous about taking the stand as a witness. As a Massachusetts witness who is about to give testimony, you always have constitutional rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. An attorney can help discuss what may have happen to you when you testify and help decide whether you may want to exercise your Fifth Amendment privilege, if you have a valid one. At a Massachusetts trial, your attorney can be present with you to speak to the prosecutor and speak to the judge.
The first determination will be whether or not you have a Fifth Amendment privilege. The Massachusetts Guide to Evidence Section 511(b) states the following for self incrimination:
Every witness has a right, in any proceeding, civil or criminal, to refuse to answer a question unless it is perfectly clear, from a careful consideration of all the circumstances, that the testimony cannot possibly have a tendency to incriminate the witness.
If you plead the Fifth, the prosecution can ask for a "Martin" hearing. The notes in the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence state the following:
Whenever a witness or the attorney for a witness asserts the privilege against self-incrimination, the judge “has a duty to satisfy himself that invocation of the privilege is proper in the circumstances.” Commonwealth v. Martin, 423 Mass. 496, 503 (1996). The mere assertion of the privilege is not sufficient. The witness or counsel must show “a real risk” that answers to the questions will tend to indicate “involvement in illegal activity,” as opposed to “a mere imaginary, remote or speculative possibility of prosecution.” Id. at 502. The witness is only required to “open the door a crack.” Id. at 504–505, quoting In re Brogna, 589 F.2d 24, 28 n.5 (1st Cir. 1978).
In general, the judge's verification of the validity of the privilege should be based on information provided in open court.. Commonwealth v. Alicea, 464 Mass. 837, 843 (2013). Only in those rare circumstances where the information is inadequate to allow the judge to make an in-formed determination should the judge conduct an in camera Martin hearing.” Commonwealth v. Jones, 472 Mass. 707, 728 (2015), quoting Pixley v. Commonwealth, 453 Mass. 827, 833 (2009). Neither the defendant nor counsel has a right to be present during a Martin hearing. Commonwealth v. Clemente, 452 Mass. 295, 318 (2008). If the judge rules that there is a valid basis for the witness to assert the privilege, the defendant has no right to call that witness. Pixley v. Commonwealth, 453 Mass. at 834.
In Superior Court, if you have a Fifth Amendment privilege, the prosecution may try to give you immunity. Immunity is not as straightforward as it may sound. This is why it is important to have a lawyer with you to make sure the prosecution is doing it correctly and you understand your rights.
No matter the situation, if you feel you are a Massachusetts witness, you can be represented by an attorney. Attorney David Ellison is an experienced Massachusetts witness representation lawyer who can help guide you through the process. Do no hesitate to contact him today at 401-230-5520.