Once the charges have been filed, arraignment, bail trial and appeals follow:
Following the first appearance following a complaint, an arraignment occurs. Generally, the arraignment occur twenty-fours following an arrest. During an arraignment, pleas to a given charge are entered by defendants, which may include:
At the time of the arraignment, the courts will also set the amount of bail, refuse bail to the defendant, or release an individual on their own recognizance.
In the course of criminal trials, bail is the amount of money, property, or other collateral utilized to insure the person accused will arrive at later at criminal court proceedings. Bail may be paid via cash or the commitment of property, if allowed by the courts.
Under laws provided for by the United States Constitution and the Sixth Amendment, every individual has a right to a speedy trial. Generally, these rights require that a trial be held within a reasonable period of time following being charged with a crime. In many instances, individuals may waive this right, in order to more adequately prepare for a case defense.
The pre-trial conference and hearing are generally the first time, following the arraignment, which an individual must appear in court again. During this court date, a criminal defense attorney and prosecutors will discuss whether or not a case can possibly be disposed without trial, through an agreement. The accused individual must attend these proceedings, although no testimony or formal proceedings actually take place. During the pre-trial conference, prosecutors may offer a plea bargain, or attempt to avoid trial by offering pleas for lesser crimes in exchange for responsibility in some aspect of a given charge or crime. During the conference, both entities will discuss details of a trial, including estimations on length and other items.
Following the pre-trial conference, the pre-trial conference occurs. The pre-trial conference is generally the next court date appearance, and in this event, a judge will attempt to resolve the case without trial, including offering plea bargains. During this time period, as well, specific motions may be scheduled or heard by both sides.
Following a criminal arrest, individuals have a right to trial by jury. The jury, which consists of six or twelve members, must unanimously deliver a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Individual may, however, waive their right to trial by jury through pleading guilty or electing to undergo a bench trial, which is a trial in front of a judge, exclusively. In capital cases, a jury must try a defendant, regardless.
Persons found guilty by a judge or jury are allowed to appeal the verdict. Depending on the crimes, the process is different, however, there are always time limitations during which an appeal must be filed. Generally, defendants have thirty (30) days following a verdict to appeal the decision, and the appeal must be under some grounds. Grounds for appealing a case, aside from an unfavorable verdict, can be made under the statement of legal error. Legal errors may include:
For certain crimes and individuals, criminal records may be sealed. In essence, sealing a criminal record prevents records from being obtained, except in limited circumstances, such as during future criminal cases against a given individual. Individuals may prove eligible to have their records sealed if:
If eligible, individuals may file written requests to have their records sealed. In certain circumstances, hearings before a judge might be necessary.
Following an arrest in the state of Massachusetts, most individuals realize they are facing serious consequences under Massachusetts law. Speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney, who deals almost exclusively in MA criminal law issues, is the only real resource for helping you deal with the complexities of your case. Generally, the following are the steps for most criminal legal cases in the state of Massachusetts: