An overview of what happens at an arraignment in Massachusetts

What is an arraignment?  An arraignment is usually how a criminal case commences against you.  There are exceptions to this general rule, which I shall talk about later.  At an arraignment, typically a plea of NOT GUILTY is entered against you and a Pre-Trial Conference date set.  Arraignments can be as uneventful as that or incredibly impactful and quite eventful.

The more eventful and impactful arraignments involve setting bail and even potentially holding you in jail during some of the pendency of the case.  It could also involve you being ordered away from a person or place or ordered not to operate a motor vehicle or to wear a GPS ankle bracelet.

An important aspect of being arraigned is that, in some sense of the word, you now will have an entry on your Board of Probation record or CORI.  In other words, you will now have a criminal record.  In substance and in the law, you really do not have a criminal record, per se, as you have not been adjudicated as guilty, but if one were to search your record, there would be an entry.  It is critical to try to avoid this if it is at all possible.  Having a case resolved/dismissed prior to arraignment is crucial and always worth attempting using a variety of avenues to accomplish as such.

Some examples of being able to have a case resolved prior to an arraignment are as follows: If the circumstances dictate as such, request that the Commonwealth (District Attorney) dismiss the case PRIOR to arraignment. This will avoid any entry on your criminal record.  There can be legal or factual reasons for a District Attorney to be willing to dismiss the case prior to arraignment.  Another way to avoid the arraignment is to ask for the case to be remanded to a Clerk Magistrate Hearing.  For some cases, usually motor vehicle offenses or some misdemeanors, you are essentially entitled to a Clerk Magistrate Hearing.  The Judge and/or District Attorney may allow you to have your case dismissed, arraignment negated, and instead a clerk magistrate conducted.  Finally, you can request that the arraignment be postponed to give you an opportunity to provide a well prepared plea and argument to the District Attorney that, in the interests of justice or fairness, you should never be arraigned for the particular charges, and the case dismissed prior to arraignment.

In cases involving Assault and Battery or physical violence, there are certain ways to prepare for the arraignment that may be very important.  Firstly, if you are aware that the alleged victim does not want the case to proceed, it may be helpful for the alleged victim to appear at the arraignment to express that they do not want the case to proceed and/or that they do not wish for a stay away/no contact order be in place.  This can be particularly important where the alleged victim and the defendant are married and/or live together.  Without this input from the alleged victim, the defendant may be ordered away from the family house and/or ordered away from the alleged victim or even his/her children.  Secondly, you want to come equipped to the court for the arraignment about information about yourself.  Whether it be about your work, family, medical information or otherwise, to help make sure the Judge doesn’t make requirements of release that could impact your ability to work, drive, be with your family, live in your house or otherwise impact your day-to-day life.  Accordingly, if possible, it is advisable to consult a Massachusetts attorney prior to arraignment to ensure that you are prepared for any eventualities that may arise at the arraignment.

While hiring a criminal defense attorney prior to arraignment is not mandatory, it can prove to be very helpful and even possibly life and case changing.  There are also certain things that can be prepared and organized prior to arraignment that can prove to be extremely important in the initial stages of the case and even the ultimate outcome. If you have an arraignment coming up and have questions, please reach out to us.  We have been representing individuals in Massachusetts for over 50 years and have handled cases in every Massachusetts court. Our attorneys are available around the clock.

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