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What Do You Do If You Are On Trial For a Crime in Massachusetts?

Any Massachusetts state resident who has been accused of a crime will be advised to get a legal advisor before responding to questions likely to cause them to self-implicate. Severe cases (like those that may lead to a jail sentence of over 2.5 years) are typically heard in the superior court, while the district court caters to the less severe ones. Arrestees in the state have the right to a lawyer and will be required to enter a plea on that lawyer’s advice.

Defendants without a lawyer must request and fill a waiver of counsel form. At the pre-trial conference, the lawyer and the investigator will exchange information concerning the case. Also, either party can file motions or set a date to do so. This may include motions to prevent the use of specific evidence, or a motion to dismiss the case, all depending on the issue’s seriousness.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
  • Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial In Massachusetts?

According to the 2019 report of the Massachusetts Court System, the state’s trial courts recorded 306,802 criminal case fillings. The total number of criminal charges was 322,585, covering personal crimes, weapons, drugs, property crimes, motor vehicle theft, etc. According to that report, only 4.42% of cases reached trial in that fiscal year. In most cases, this was the result of the lack of evidence. When a suspected criminal prevails at the preliminary trial, prosecutors frequently opt not to refile charges. However, a larger percentage of the cases are settled in a plea bargain.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

Pursuant to section 18 of the Massachusetts Legislature, every criminal defendant has the right to be present throughout all court hearings. The defendants are also allowed to waive that right, as stated in Section 19 of the legislature. However, this is only effective if the judge deems such a waiver voluntary and knowing. Also, the trial waiver law only applies to district court jury sessions and the superior court.

What Are The Stages of a Criminal Trial in Massachusetts?

Criminal trials in Massachusetts follow the stages below:

  • Choosing a jury: Defendants usually reserve the right to be judged by a jury comprising their peers. Thus, the defendant has the option to seek justice by a bench trial or a jury trial. Most times, defendants decide to have a jury trial.
  • Opening statements: Both parties will be called to make statements. Most times, the prosecutor gives the opening statement.
  • Witness testimony & cross-examination: This is the stage where both parties present their primary evidence. Here, witnesses give their testimonies by the prosecutor while the defendant has the opportunity to cross-examine them.
  • Closing arguments: Both parties are given a chance to summarize their case in this stage.
  • Jury instruction: Here, a judge details the legal standards that the jury will need to make a fair judgment.
  • Jury deliberation & verdict: This is the stage where the jury will discuss among themselves in a bid to reach an agreement on whether the defendant is guilty or not.

How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Massachusetts?

According to Massachusetts law, an accused must be tried in court within 12 months after the date of arraignment. Time limits may be extended if the defendant agrees to continue. However, trial dates can extend longer if other cases are considered to be of higher priority. Certain factors determine the priority of a case. For instance, older cases prioritize new cases, and defendants in custody are attended to earlier, under section 35 of the state’s law.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Massachusetts?

Trials in Massachusetts start with the prosecutor’s opening statement. Afterward, the defense lawyer can likewise offer an opening statement or not. Witnesses are called, and both the prosecutor and defendant are allowed to direct-examine and cross-examine the witness, respectively.

After that, both parties will be allowed to make the closing arguments. Then the jury considers all the evidence and witness statements as they deliberate over the case to reach a unanimous verdict. Individuals also have the right to an appeal. However, in an appeal:

  • The appellant can only make arguments in writing
  • The appellant cannot bring in witnesses
  • The appellant cannot tender new evidence
  • Usually, new arguments are not allowed in an appeal

Can you be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Massachusetts?

No, an individual may not be made to face trial more than once for a crime in Massachusetts. This common law is guaranteed under the Double Jeopardy Clause. However, according to the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine of the federal constitution, if a single act breaches two states’ law, the system treats it as different offenses. Therefore, the double jeopardy clause has not been conflicted. Matters of this kind are entirely at the discretion of the particular prosecutor. Another state having a case against an offender could decide that a verdict from the first state is adequate, so it wouldn’t automatically mean more than one state will bring charges.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Massachusetts?

Interested parties can gain access to the Massachusetts trial court dockets online or in person. To access the records in person, the requester will need a public terminal computer available at all courthouses in the state and the registry of deed sites (county). The public access computers display search results, such as disposition details, dockets, events, case information, and the including party. However, actual case documents are not revealed and can only be accessed at the appropriate register, recorder, or clerk’s offices.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Massachusetts?

Some trial court dockets can be obtained online from the Trial Court Electronic Case Access (Massachusetts) website. Requesters can search for court dockets by using:

  • The name search tab
  • The case type tab
  • The case number tab
  • Citation/ticket number tab

For further details on how to view court case files, requesters can visit the Massachusetts government website. If an interested party is searching for an old court record, they can be accessed from the Massachusetts Court Archives portal. Alternatively, many third-party sites keep court case records.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, individuals with criminal records can file a motion to seal those records. Interested Massachusetts residents filing with the BMC (Boston Municipal Court) have the privilege to file non-criminal court records from multiple BMC divisions. Individuals can also file more than three record dismissals with them. An individual who is petitioning to seal a record must either fill a conviction records form or a non-conviction records form. It is also advisable to submit either of these forms and any document that can help convince the court to seal the record.

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