10 things to consider if you are charged with a crime in Massachusetts
1. Keep calm and use common sense.
Appearing as a Defendant in a criminal court process is stressful and intimidating. However, try to use common sense and good judgment in everything you say or do in court.
If you appear stressed or nervous, a jury may read that as a sign of guilt. However, you may just be nervous about the process. You want everyone in this court process to get the right perception and a good impression from the very moment they see you until the disposition of your case.
Most of the time, it's best to let your lawyer speak for you. In necessary, talk to your lawyer quietly and privately if you have any questions or input.
Never interrupt your lawyer, the judge, other court personnel while the court is in session.
2. You are not guilty; you are only charged.
You are not guilty of anything; you are simply accused (charged). You are innocent until you are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a Jury or by a Judge.
Many things could happen on the way to could result in a dismissal, not guilty, or similar result. Your case could get dismissed by your Attorney's motion because the complaint did not provide for your arrest; the police may have used illegal procedures to arrest you or seize your property; or the Assistant District Attorney could "null Prosequi " (decide not to prosecute your case) because he or she decided it is obvious the Commonwealth will not prevail at trial or the ADA may dismiss the case using a comprehensive equity based rationale referred to a dismissal "in the interests of justice".
3. Don't speak about your case with anyone except your lawyer and professionals hired by your lawyer.
Don't talk to anyone about your case except your lawyer; including co-workers, police, and fellow no matter how friendly and sympathetic they seem. The court process will determine what happened in your case, you do not need to accelerate that process by providing additional witnesses or informants against yourself.
If you are ever held in jail or at a police station polite to the officers, guards, or inmates, but do not offer any information about your case or personal details. There is no duty to keep your statements confidential and that information could be used against you later.
4. Cooperate with your lawyer and tell the whole story truthfully
Cooperate with your lawyer by telling your version of events as accurately, truthfully, and consistently as possible. If you tell your lawyer one thing your first meeting and change that fact under oath in the court process, you will lose credibility and move yourself a step closer to guilty. The more accurate, truthful, and complete information your lawyer has about the facts, the better he or she can plan defenses for a trial.
Review your case files, especially the police report, criminal complaint, and 911 transcripts, incorrect facts, inconsistencies, and impossible time-frames. If there are incriminating facts or potentially damaging witnesses, tell your lawyer right up front so he or she is not caught off guard half way through a trial or motion.
Tell your the lawyer your whole the following: work experience, veteran status, immigration status, volunteer efforts, medical history, and mental history. Every piece of information about your background has some value to the lawyer and may be used in your case at trial, a motion, or in presenting a plea.
5. Start off strong at arraignment, bring family, or friends to show support and community ties.
Arraignment is the first event (first date) in a criminal case when the court reads the formal charges against you and you set the next court date (pretrial date). It is very important to present yourself in the most positive, respectful, and honest way possible, as it will set the tone for the rest of days in court.
Your lawyer will argue for your release or personal recognizance, (your promise to return to court for the next date), or a small bail amount, while the Assistant District Attorney may ask the judge to hold you until the next court date or a high bail amount if you are considered dangerous to the community.
The judge will weigh a number of factors in deciding whether you will be held or released until the next court your family ties to the state, your work, education, and your past criminal history.
If possible, have some family members or friends in the court to show the judge you have strong connections to the community and are not a flight risk.
At the arraignment, be polite, let your lawyer do the talking, and do not lose your temper if you do not like the outcome of this or any hearing.
6. You're the boss, the lawyer works for you, common sense, you know your case and yourself
Lawyer's are just people who went to a few years of school after college and passed an exam. They're not all-knowing beings. You make the big decisions about your case, like whether to take your case to trial and whether you prefer a trial before a judge or before a jury, while the lawyer will decide the best strategies and procedures for that trial.
If your lawyer is not doing his or her job, not listening to you, or you are not communicating well with them, fire them. Get a new lawyer rather than jeopardizing your liberty or your case. You do not have to be rude or confrontational, just explain that you have different opinions about the case, you cannot effectively communicate with them anymore, and would like to hire new counsel. The lawyer will bring a motion to withdraw from the case and you can hire a new lawyer or the court will appoint you a new lawyer if you are deemed indigent (unable to pay based on an income test).
7. Learn the law about the charges against you and use that knowledge to help lawyer plan for trial
Get a copy of the Jury Instructions for the criminal charges against you. The jury instructions are the exact elements of the crime charged, which the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial to warrant a verdict of guilty against the Defendant.
For example, the elements of an OUI (Operating Under the Influence charge are as follows: 1. You were operating a motor vehicle; 2. You operated on a public way; and 3. You operated while under the influence of intoxicating alcohol. If one of those three elements cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt (you were not driving on a public way, for example), a judge or jury should find you not guilty.
In a criminal trial, the burden is on the Commonwealth, (Assistant District Attorney, Prosecutor), to prove the Defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. A good attorney who uses the case law, statutes, rules of evidence, some salesmanship, some theatre, some comedy, and criminal procedure can make it difficult or even impossible for the prosecution to meet its burden of proving that the Defendant committed every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The reasonable doubt standard is sometimes explained as being so almost "a moral certitude".
8. The police, assistant district attorneys, and probation officers are not personally against you.
It is difficult to realize as a Defendant in a criminal court, but 99.99 percent of the time, nobody who works in law enforcement, the District Attorney's office, court officers, probation, and especially the judge has any personal anger or ill-will toward you. They are simply doing their jobs as fairly and efficiently as possible, just as you do your job every day.
If a Judge and Assistant District Attorney seem irritated, they are probably just busy and trying to move through the huge number of cases in their charge. They hear the Defenandant's and worst problems and nightmares eight hours per day and five days per week. A or Judge or ADA will give a Defendant the benefit of the doubt and let them go with little or no punishment one day, only to see that same Defendant return the next day with the same or against them. They are human beings under more stress and pressure than most people will ever experience. I see the work they do everyday and I am always in awe at how hard-working, fair, patient they are considering their overwhelming duties and responsibilities.
9. Be on time, well dressed, well groomed, polite, and respectful to everyone in the court process.
Finally, show up on time to all your court dates, dress well, only speak when the judge and your attorney prompt you, and be polite and respectful to everyone you encounter in this court the police, the Assistant District Attorneys, your lawyer, probation officers, court officers, the janitor, and the guy who works in the court news stand. Being polite and respectful will always put you ahead of 40 percent of the other defendants in the court. If you are not polite and respectful the court will not be inclined to give you anything more that is required by law, as they are not required to do so.
10. Try to change anything in your life that may cause you to be a criminal defendant again.
Good luck. You will be fine. You will get through this with a good attorney, a good attitude, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. Or you may have simply been wrongly accused and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless, learn from this court process.
If you are associating with people who are always in legal trouble, do not associate with those people; it's not worth it. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol do all you can to beat it.
A large percentage of people charged with crimes and in a this court process are there directly or indirectly due to addiction, mental illness, or some combination thereof. If you address these underlying problems in your life and focus on work, school, family, and giving back to your community, it is unlikely you will a criminal defendant.
After you spend a few days in criminal court, you will be determined to never return, unless you are there in one of the capacities named in #9 above. Whitey Bulger (convicted gangster) said "crime pay unless you go to law"
The information and statements in this article are not meant as legal advice, nor as a solicitation for legal services. If you have any legal issues or concerns with criminal or civil consequences, I recommend that you consult with a licensed attorney.
Originally posted on Avvo: https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/tips-to-consider-if-you-are-charged-with-a-crime-in-massachusetts
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