Pre-Trial Probation

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 276 Section 87, the trial court may place a person on pre-trial probation. Pre-trial probation is a court-approved agreement or contract between the prosecutor and defendant before a trial or a plea of guilty. Under such an agreement, a defendant is placed on probation, in the care of a probation officer, for a certain period of time and under certain conditions before he is convicted of any crime. Probation may be supervised or unsupervised. In return, the charges will be dismissed upon the defendant’s successful completion of his probation. If, on the other hand, the defendant violates any condition of his probation, then the charges will not be dismissed and the case will proceed normally.

I VIOLATED MY PRETRIAL PROBATION IN MASSACHUSETTS. CAN THE JUDGE SEND ME TO JAIL?

Absolutely not. A defendant cannot be imprisoned for violating his pre-trial probation because he has neither been convicted nor pled guilty to any crime. However, a defendant who violates pre-trial probation can be held with or without bail if the court so decides at a bail hearing.

Can the Conditions of my Pretrial Probation be Modified?

Although a pre-trial probation agreement is entered with the defendant’s consent, the court retains the authority to modify the conditions of probation as long as the change is not the equivalent of a new punishment. Probationary conditions signed by the defendant have no force without the court order, and probation derives enforceability from a court order, not from the defendant’s agreement. Common probationary conditions include participation in rehabilitative programs, performance of community service, periodic reporting to probation and seeking and retaining employment. The court may also modify the time period of probation, provided that it does so within the original probationary period or within a reasonable time after that period has ended.

All conditions of probation must be reasonably related to probationary goals in order to survive constitutional scrutiny. Probationary goals are typically rehabilitative, but they may be punitive, retributive or deterrent.

Pretrial Probation May be the Only Way to Avoid Deportation

Sometimes district attorneys offer a continuance without a finding thinking they are being generous to a defendant. Regardless of their intentions a continuance without a finding (CWOF) might result in deportation. CWOFs are considered convictions for immigration purposes. If you are not an American citizen you should ask your lawyer about this. We have been successful getting prosecutors to agree to pretrial probation in cases where our clients face deportation. Non-citizens charged with minor drug offenses represent a large contingent of people we represent with this problem. We get our clients pretrial probation when necessary.

Pre-trial probation is not widely available, and usually less serious offenses are involved when it is available. It is not an option after a plea or admission. The current economic slump will continue to exacerbate the overcrowded conditions in Massachusetts prisons, and that will doubtlessly result in institutional pressure on practitioners to know the probation system inside and out. In his twenty-years of experience defending criminal charges, Stephen Neyman has gained unparalleled knowledge of probation procedures. If you have any questions regarding pre-trial probation or other criminal matters, call the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. at 617-263-6800 or contact us online today. Si usted habla español contacte a nuestro asistente legal Maria Rivera en 617-877-6270.