What Happens After Someone Bonds Out Of Jail After An Arrest?
The processes for superior court and for district or Boston municipal court are mostly similar, but superior court is lengthier because the case has to be indicted and then transferred from the district court or BMC to the superior court. Typically it will take some time to convene a grand jury. You will not be part of the grand jury process, but you will likely have several pretrial hearings in the district court while waiting on the indictment. At your arraignment, the judge will set your next court date. This will typically be about one month away if you are held or two months away if you are released, depending on the court’s schedule, and this is about the frequency you should expect throughout the case. The first court hearing will be arraignment and a bail hearing. If you have been released by a bail commissioner, the judge may still conduct a bail hearing and require you to post bail if the prosecution requests a hearing. However, if you have been released already it is unlikely the judge would raise your bail.
The second hearing will typically be a pretrial hearing. It is an opportunity for your lawyer and the prosecutor to exchange evidence and discuss any issues that need the case to be resolved before trial. They may also discuss potential pleas at this point. I usually advise against taking a plea at this point unless I think a very favorable outcome can be obtained, such as a dismissal or pretrial probation. Many less serious cases could end up being dismissed on the trial date because the prosecution will not try that hard to get their witnesses in, so it is better to wait and see than to take a bad offer. But it is worth seeing what their offer is.
The next event will be more variable. If the parties agree at pretrial that the case is ready for trial, then the judge will schedule it for trial. If there is evidence that still needs to be exchanged, there will be a compliance and election date. If your attorney thinks a motion to dismiss or a motion to suppress might be viable, then the judge will set a date for a hearing on that motion. Compliance and election or motion hearing dates will be followed by trial once those issues have been resolved. Or if you are inclined to take a plea but something needs to be worked out first (for example, arranging your affairs before going to jail or having your driver’s license suspended), the court may set a disposition hearing. But, just because you request a disposition hearing does not mean you are required to take the plea. You can change your mind any time up to the judge’s acceptance of the plea.
What If I Feel Guilty Or Believe I’m Guilty? Should I Ever Throw Myself On The Mercy Of The Court?
No. You should negotiate the best possible resolution. If you feel guilty or are guilty and want to make up for it somehow, you can do community service or donate to charity or something on your own terms. There is no reason to accept a legal resolution worse than what circumstances of the case require you to accept. A conviction or even a continuance without a finding can cause you long term consequences: lost job opportunities, deportation, inability to get a security clearance or work in certain occupations. This hurts you, and your family, and your ability to make a positive contribution to your community, for the rest of your life.
Do Most Cases Go To Trial Or Settle Out Of Court?
Only about 5% of criminal cases go to trial.
If I Have A Prior Arrest Or Conviction, How Much Will That Play Into My Case?
Prior convictions will be a major factor in sentencing or plea bargaining. Prior charges without a conviction may be as well, even though they are not supposed to. In theory it should play no role at trial, which is just about guilt or innocence. But in reality it might, if the prosecutor can convince the judge that it’s “evidence” somehow. In a fair system it would never be evidence but in our corrupt system many judges want to hurt people and will take advantage of this opportunity. It can especially be a problem if the conviction is for something involving dishonesty or is a felony, because the prosecutor can often use that as evidence to impeach you if you testify.
Are There Alternative Punishments To Jail That I Might Qualify For Or You Could Get Me In To? (community service, house arrest, probation, deferred adjudication, diversion)
For many cases yes. It mainly depends on the seriousness of the case and your prior record. Probation is more common than jail time in district court or Boston municipal court cases, and still does happen at times in superior or federal courts. Diversion is less common, but may be available to first time offenders depending on the type of crime. House arrest is uncommon and typically only happens where the judge would normally order incarceration but finds it inhumane to do so in your particular case, such as if you have medical issues that require more care than the jail can provide.
What Should I Look For In Hiring A Criminal Defense Attorney? What Are Some Red Flags?
Look for someone who knows what they are doing and is committed to getting you the best outcome that is possible in your case. Inexperience is a red flag, but experience isn’t a guarantee. Plenty of attorneys are just phoning it in. The main thing to watch out for with more experience attorneys is whether they take a cookie cutter approach to your case or consider all the complexities unique to your case. If you’re a cookie cutter person I guess that’s fine, but if you have unusual circumstances then they need to be considered. The biggest way I see criminal defense attorneys at all levels of experience screw up is in not advising, or giving bad advice, to people who are not US citizens. The interaction between immigration and criminal law is very complex, and the same crime can have different consequences depending on your exact immigration status, how long you’ve been in the US, the length of your sentence, whether you’ve been in immigration proceedings before, etc. Occupational licensing and security clearances can also be affected in complicated ways that cookie cutter attorneys won’t spot.
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