What happens at a Massachusetts arraignment? In Massachusetts an arraignment is the first hearing after an arrest in a criminal case. It is also the first hearing after a clerk magistrate issues the charges after a show cause hearing. At an arraignment a person is formally charged with a specific crime.
The purpose of a Massachusetts arraignment is to formally charge someone with a crime. After the charges are read, the judge will then ask if the person wants to hire their own lawyer, see if they qualify for a court appointed attorney. The clerk will automatically enter a “Not Guilty” plea. The Judge then asks the District Attorney if the Commonwealth is seeking bail or conditions of release. If the District Attorney is asking for bail then the judge may appoint a lawyer just for purposes of bail and hear the arguments for and against bail. The judge then sets bail or conditions of releases. At no time does the Defendant have to speak other than to answer some basic questions.
How do Massachusetts Judges Decide Bail?
The purpose of bail is to ensure the appearance of the Defendant at the next court date. It is not intended to punish the Defendant and must not be unfair. Judges in Massachusetts can consider two factors when setting bail, risk of flight and danger to the community. Judge’s consider someone’s ties to the community greatly when deciding bail. Judge’s also consider past defaults and mussed court dates when deciding bail. Judges also use the the danger to the community standard when setting bail. The nature of the charges are usually what the judges consider when setting bail.
Judge’s do not have to set cash bail in every case. In fact most times a person is released on their own recognizance. That is there promise to appear at the next court date.
Instead of a cash bail judge’s can also set conditions of release. For example a judge could order someone to remain drug and alcohol free with random tests. If the person failed a drug test a judge could then hold them in jail for unto 90 days for a violation of a condition of release.
What if the Judge Sets a High Bail?
Bails can be reviewed by higher judge’s in Massachusetts. So if a judge in District Court sets a bail that is considered high the person has a right to appeal to a Superior Court Judge. In Superior Court the judge can make the bail higher, lower or keep it the same.
What Comes After the Massachusetts Arraignment?
Usually the case is scheduled for a pre-trial conference or a pre-trial hearing. That is where the lawyers can discuss the possibility for a plea or types of trial issue. Pre-Trial hearings are held in the court but are usually informal.
Patrick Donovan is a Massachusetts Criminal Attorney who has experience in over fifty courts in Massachusetts.