Criminal Defense FAQs
Below please find answers to frequently asked questions related to preparing for a court appearance or managing one’s expectations when retaining a criminal defense lawyer.
How is bail set in Massachusetts?
Most people are not held on any bail. In Massachusetts, there is the presumption that most people will be released on their own recognizance. Bail is simply a means of ensuring that the person will show up to court. If you do not show up, then you could forfeit that bail money. People who do receive some type of bail generally have a criminal record and/or are being charged with a more serious crime. If they have a history of not showing up to court in other cases, then they are more likely to have some type of bail placed against them.
In Massachusetts, if you are held on bail it is usually a cash bail. It is rare to use a bail bondsman. There is what is known as a 10% cash alternative in Massachusetts, which doesn’t involve a bail bondsman. Instead of posting a bond, a person posts a cash bail equal to 10% of what would normally be required for the bond. The good thing is that once bail has been paid, it is held by the court. If the person attends all required court appearances, they are going to receive all the money back at the end of the case, regardless of the outcome of the case.
What can someone expect after being released on bail?
The initial court appearance, called an arraignment, is when bail would be set. Most court appearances then follow a certain track. Generally, court appearances are spaced about 30 to 45 days apart. The next event is usually a pretrial hearing. At that time, your lawyer and the district attorney get together and look at the case to decide what documents and information will need to be turned over by the district attorney. This is called discovery. The more time required to defend or fight the case, the more appearances you will have to make in court. However, at the end, you may be able to walk out with a win as opposed to some sort of probation or other sentence.
How would you advise someone who is contemplating pleading guilty to a criminal case?
I tell them to wait. Before making any such decisions, you really need to speak with a lawyer and have them look over your case. Oftentimes, we can look at the initial police report and see many defenses that the average person might not know to look for or even understand. Many clients come into our office thinking that things are hopeless, but with our knowledge we can form a good defense and actually beat the charges. If we cannot win the case, we assist you in getting the best possible plea. This often includes reduction in charges or dismissal of certain charges outright.
Is an attorney needed to plead guilty to a criminal case?
The technical answer is no. However, for your own benefit, you should have a good lawyer. You want someone in your corner with both the experience in the particular courts and the expertise to negotiate the issues. Even if you intend to plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court, there are things that we can negotiate, such as a reduction in charges, dismissal of certain charges and certainly a better deal for probation. Our experience in many of these courts gives us a leg up because the district attorneys know who we are; they know that we like to fight these cases and often that will provide us leverage to get you a better deal.
How should I dress for court?
When appearing in court you want to be neat and presentable. It shows respect to the judge and other court personnel. It also shows that you are taking the matter seriously. Generally speaking, this can go a long way to getting the result we may need on any given day, particularly when it’s a close call for the judge. Simply put, you should do all you can to place your best foot forward. This means: showering, shaving (if you’re a man), trimming any full beard or mustache, and dressing your best. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy expensive suits or dresses. However, you should never wear:
- Ripped jeans
- Short skirts
- Revealing tops
- T-shirts (with offensive logos or otherwise)
- Flip Flops
Based upon what you have in your closet or could easily get before Court, examples of acceptable clothing are below (in descending order):
- Nice knee length dress or pants suit (for women)
- Sport coat
- Button down shirt (with or without a tie)
- Polo / golf style shirt.
- Dress pants, slacks or khaki pants
- Dress shoes (preferably cleaned and shined)
- Modest or no jewelry
Believe it or not, many people do not dress presentably for Court. Every day I see people wearing items from the “never wear” list above. However, if you heed this advice, you will stand out to the judge (in a positive way), which never hurts our case.
What should I bring to my initial consultation with an attorney?
You should bring as many of the following (if you have them in your possession) to your initial consultation:
- Some form of identification (i.e. driver’s license, state ID card, school ID, passport, etc.)
- Notices from the court
- Traffic Citations/Tickets (if a motor vehicle offense)
- Police reports
- Photographs relevant to the case
- Other relevant documents (letters, emails, text messages, social media posts, etc.)
- Names, addresses, Email addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses you think may be helpful to your case
Don’t worry if you do not have some of the documents listed above. Just bring what you can. However, the more information you have the better we can advise you during this initial consultation.
What should I expect during the initial consultation with the attorney?
At Contant Law we like to think of the initial consultation like a job interview or audition. In many cases, we have never met before and you do not even know if you would want to work with us. That is one of the reasons why we do not charge fee for the initial consultation.
Most initial consultations last between 30 and 60 minutes. During that time, we will review the documents you bring and ask you many questions to learn about you and your case. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have about us, the case or court process.
If you decide that you want to work with us, we will prepare a written Fee Agreement which spells out what our fees for the case will be, the work that is covered by that fee and what, if anything, may be extra. Our attorneys will go over the Fee Agreement with you and will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the agreement.
If I hire Contant Law, can you guarantee that I will win my case?
The short answer is no. No attorney can guarantee the outcome. Any attorney who tells you that they can guarantee you will win or that they “have never lost a case” is likely either lying to you or they have not tried many cases. Each case is different, and the outcome will depend on the specific facts and circumstances within that case. Our job is to analyze those facts against the backdrop of the law and come up with the best possible strategy to help us win the case for you. Only after doing all of that will we be able to tell you the likelihood of success in the case. While we do have a great track record of helping our clients win many cases, nobody wins them all and we can never guarantee it. Our only guarantee will be that we will work hard and use all our skill to ensure that you get the best possible result.
How much is my case going to cost?
Each case is different and with that the costs do vary. We try to tailor the price we charge based upon the complexity of the case and how much time it will require. We cannot quote someone a price over the telephone or by email without knowing more about the case. Typically, after learning more about the person and the case during the first meeting we are able to quote a price. What I can say here is that for most criminal cases we charge what is referred to as a “flat fee.” This means that absent a few exceptions you pay one time for the work you have hired us to perform. That means that once we are hired we will not be sending you additional bills for our fees. The benefit is that it gives you some certainty as to what the matter will cost. This differs from an hourly fee where it is open ended as to just how much the attorney’s fee will end up costing. Regardless how it is billed, we will always provide you with a written fee agreement which detail all your responsibilities with regard to any fees or expenses.