If you have been arrested for any crime in Massachusetts then you have to appear in court for an arraignment. An arraignment is normally a very short court hearing where someone is formally charged with a crime.
Before the Arraingment
Before going before the judge, you must report to the Probation Department. The Probation Department handles peoples criminal record. The probation will complete an intake form and will run your criminal record. Your record will then be presented to the judge at the time of the hearing. If you don’t have a record Probation will let the judge know that you have no record.
The Probation Department also determines if you qualify for a public defender. In Massachusetts you must be indigent to get a public defender. Probation asks a series of financial questions to see if you qualify. Even if you do qualify you can hire your own lawyer.
When you case is called in the courtroom you must appear before a judge. At that time the charges against you will be read out loud and the clerk will automatically enter a not guilty plea. The judge will then ask you if you if you plan to hire a lawyer, represent yourself or ask the court to appoint a lawyer. If you ask the court to appoint a lawyer you must qualify as indigent. If you do qualify the court will immediately appoint a lawyer and assess a legal counsel fee of $150. If you tell the court you plan to hire your own lawyer the judge will allow you to do that. If you plan to represent your self the judges requires you sign a waiver of counsel form.
The judge then asks the prosecutor normally the Assistant District Attorney if there is a question of bail. Bail in Massachusetts is set by the judge. Bail can either be a personal recognizance, a cash bail or conditions of release. Personal recognizance means that you promise to come to court and no cash is required. A cash bails means you have to post a certain amount of money in order to be released from custody. Conditions of release means that you can be released but you need to follow certain conditions such as abstinence from drugs and alcohol, stay away from a certain area or no driving.
If the Assistant District Attorney believes the case warrants a bail they will ask the judge to impose a bail. Prosecutors are not required to ask for bail in every case may or may not seek bail. If they ask for bail and you plan to hire your own attorney the judge will appoint an attorney only for the bail hearing. After the issue of bail is addressed the case is scheduled for a pretrial conference.
Before you leave the court the clerk will read a Massachusetts bail warning. The clerk will advise you that while this case in pending if you are charged with a new offense your bail may be revoked and you can be fined or held in jail for up to sixty days.
Patrick Donovan is a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney. Attorney Donovan is former prosecutor who has appeared in over fifty courts in Massachusetts. Attorney Donovan handles felony and misdemeanor crimes. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Massachusetts contact attorney Donovan today for a free no obligation consultation