In my last blog, I mentioned that I wanted to give you a taste of what it is like to be charged with the particularly nasty crime of sexual assault. In that blog, I described some of the problems you would likely face should the charges against you be dismissed.
Later this week, I plan to update that subject with a case I witnessed only this past week. In the meantime, let’s assume that you have been charged with Massachusetts indecent assault and battery. Assume further that, while you know the man making the allegations, you do not recall attacking him in any way. However, the police called you down to the police stations to “talk” and “get your side of it”.
“Your side” was not too helpful to the Commonwealth and so the response was to take you into custody.
As the cell door slams behind you, you are told that you are being held on $50,000 bail for now. You can plead your case to the judge tomorrow. As the detective walks away, your are re-considering whether it was wise to come to “talk” without an attorney,
Attorney Sam’s Take On The Arraignment Experience
While you wait with about 5 other guys in a small cell in the basement of the local district court, you meet and talk with a court-appointed attorney who will be representing you for today (It seems you make too much money to qualify for a court appointed lawyer going forward). He explains that Vinny Victim has indicated that you visited him at his convenience store a couple of nights ago, came on to him and kept grabbing his penis and buttocks. He claims that when he rebuffed you, you hit him over the head with a heavy object.
You are shocked because, while you were at his store, nothing of the sort happened. In fact, while you did accidently bump into him while trying to get a box of cereal from a high shelf. In fact, you dropped the box and the box and a nearby can of something fell on the floor. Vinny looked at you with mild disgust and walked away.
That was it.
You assure him that once the prosecutor looks at this case, she will clearly see that it is nonsense and dismiss the case. Unfortunately, your attorney tells you that that will never happen and that your only hope of getting out of custody and going home is low bail. You ask him why there should be any bail at all. He reminds you that you have a bit of a criminal record.
True, the last time you were in trouble was a drunk driving case 10 years ago. However, there was a default listed in that case. Further, there were a couple of cases before that including one for assault and battery. You explain that that case was dismissed. He tells you that your Cori reflects that is true. However, it is still likely to be considered. You discuss how much money for bail you think the family can come up with and within a minute he moves on to another one of your cell mates.
As you await your arraignment, you are sure that once the judge realizes what you have done in your life since your troubled past, he will release you on your own recognizance.
Unfortunately, when you are brought up to the courtroom, it is not quite what you expected. You and your cellmates are brought up together and seated behind a clear plastic enclosure. You are also wearing hand and leg cuffs. When your name is called, the prosecutor starts telling the judge (and everyone else within hearing) about what the “victim” claimed. To your surprise, he is announcing it as if he really believes it. Then, he starts talking about your past and makes it sound like you are a life-long gangster who never has, and never will, return to court upon being released. She finishes that the bail be kept at $50,000.
Your lawyer argues that the allegations are absurd and will be shown as such. He also mentions a few nice things about you. He tells the judge that your family does not have much money and ends by asking that you be released on your own recognizance.
The judge whispers something to the clerk, who announces that bail is set at $25,000.
As the court officers guide you back downstairs, you realize that the entire arraignment took about 5 minutes.
You think about the various things that you had wanted the judge to know so that he would realize that this was all a mistake. There was no time, though, for you to tell him. Your attorney said a few of the things, but there had not been enough time to tell him other important things.
You cannot believe it. You know that you did not do what you are accused of doing. You assume you are “presumed innocent”. But, here you are…in jail with bail set in an amount you know that your family cannot possibly make.
Why is everybody treating you like you have already been found guilty?
You hear your cellmates complaining about the attorney, claiming that he “really” works for the prosecution. You doubt that, but, then, you do not know what to believe anymore.
You assume your attorney will be down to explain it all to you.
You assumed wrong. He was unable to get down to your cell before they bussed you to the nearby jail.
For the first couple of days, you remain in the dark. You can neither make phone calls nor receive visitors for a few days.
Maybe your lawyer will come soon…?
We’ll come back to you in a posting later this week.