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Criminal Procedure and the Criminal Process FAQs
Being accused of a crime or facing a criminal charge can be an unnerving experience. This process involves many nuances and technical aspects, which can add to the stress burdening a defendant. You likely have questions about your rights and the potential range of outcomes for your case. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney for specific guidance. However, these are some answers to general questions that often arise.
An arrest is often the first step in the criminal process. An arrest may occur with or without a warrant if the police have probable cause to believe that you committed a crime. If you are arrested you will be brought to the police station and booked. During booking the police may ask you routine questions and collect biographical information. It is not advisable to answer anything beyond these basic questions. After the booking process you may be released and given a summons to appear in court, a magistrate may require that you post bail to be eligible for release, or you may be transported to court directly for arraignment.
A summons to appear in court is another way in which the criminal process may begin. If you are arrested you may be released and given a summons to appear in court. If you were not arrested, you may receive a summons in the mail with a date to appear in court for your arraignment. This is a critical stage of the criminal process and it is best to contact an attorney right away to assist you. Once you have received your summons you will be expected to appear on the date given by the court. If you do not appear a warrant could issue for your arrest.
An arraignment is the process by which formal charges are brought against you in criminal court. At the arraignment you will most likely enter a plea of not guilty and the court will then determine if you are eligible for release. At the arraignment the court will consider bail and may impose monetary bail or conditions or release. Once your case is arraigned you have been formally charged and the case will appear on your criminal record. It is essential to be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you argue bail and may even be able to help you secure a disposition prior to arraignment depending on your charges.
At the arraignment the court will consider whether you can be released on your personal recognizance or whether to set bail on your case. The court may release you on your promise to return to court, also referred to as personal recognizance. The court may also release you but set certain conditions that you must abide by while your case is pending. For instance, in assault cases it is common for the court to set a condition that you stay away and have no contact with the alleged victim. In cases involving drug charges the court may impose a condition that you remain drug free and/or participate in drug treatment while your case is pending. The court may also consider imposing a monetary bail to ensure that you will return to court. The court may consider a variety of factors in deciding whether or not to set bail, including the nature of the crime, any prior convictions, the potential penalties, any prior defaults, as well as your employment, family ties and other background information.
After the arraignment, your case will begin to move through the criminal court process. This will start with the pretrial conference date. This is generally the first date after the arraignment. At the pretrial conference your attorney will discuss your case with prosecutor and gain a better understanding of how the case will proceed. At this date your attorney will request all of the discovery materials in your case; that is, all of the evidence that the government will use to prove the charges against you. Your attorney and the prosecutor will fill out paperwork known as a pretrial conference report. This date may also begin the process of plea negotiations with the prosecution. It is common to have more than one pretrial date. This can be a result of the district attorney not having the entire discovery. There may be 911 recordings, supplemental reports, video footage, ballistics reports, drug certifications and other evidentiary items that often are not available at the initial pretrial.
You will be required to attend all of the court dates in your case unless the court waives your presence for a particular date. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney may be able to request that your presence be waived for certain preliminary court dates. The number of court dates in your case will depend on a variety of factors including the nature of the charges, the evidence, and any evidentiary hearings.
A motion hearing will occur when your attorney files a motion requesting the court to take some action on your case. Motion hearings can address a variety of issues. For instance, your attorney may file motions requesting that the government or other third party record holders turn over certain discovery material related to your case. Additionally, your attorney may file a motion requesting that the court dismiss the charges against you if they are not supported by the evidence, or requesting the court to suppress certain evidence in your case if it was obtained illegally.
Your criminal case could have any number of different outcomes depending on a variety of factors such as the nature of the charges, the facts and circumstances of the case, and your prior criminal record. You may choose to pursue your case through a trial before a judge or jury, or you may have the opportunity to resolve your case by way of a plea or other pretrial disposition. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you evaluate your options and achieve the best possible resolution of your criminal case.
Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Massachusetts, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. Attorney Neyman has extensive experience representing criminal defendants and he will help guide you through the process and achieve the best possible outcome for your criminal matter. He has helped his clients favorably resolve their cases and has successfully defended clients at trial. Because he understands that facing a criminal charge can cause anxiety and distress, he readily makes himself available to answer questions and address concerns. Call Attorney Neyman’s office at 617-263-6800 or send him an e-mail today.