How Does a Prior Arrest or Conviction Impact a Criminal Case in Massachusetts?
Having a criminal record can affect your ability to be released prior to trial. It can also affect the type of sentence you might receive if you were to lose at trial or in terms of plea negotiations. The worse the record, the more it can affect your case. However, someone with a very slight record, maybe one or two minor offenses, or someone with a very old record, perhaps dating back when they were much younger, will have much less difficulty.
Do Most Criminal Cases Settle or Do They Go to Trial?
Most cases do not go to trial. Some cases settle through plea negotiations. However, it has been our experience that by contesting cases, we have been able to have many more dismissed prior to trial, through a motion or other defenses. However, each case is different, and we will not know which direction it will take until we review all the particulars of the case.
Are There Any Alternative or Diversion Programs Available to First Time Offenders?
In Massachusetts, for the vast majority of cases, the person does not end up going to any sort of jail, house of correction or prison. Most people do qualify for some type of probation; even those with past criminal records often get some kind of probation.
There are diversion programs which are for very minor offenses and are usually only offered to first time offenders. In Massachusetts, the diversion programs are run by the district attorney’s office. They have discretion on who they will allow to participate. There will be certain requirements to complete the program, such as counseling and community service. However, if you successfully complete the program then your case will never be brought to court for arraignment and never appear on your record. If you are not successful, then the case will be brought forward to be arraigned and follow the usual course.
In addition, most first-time offenders who commit a relatively minor offense, are able to get what is referred to as a Continuation Without A Finding (CWOF). With a CWOF, you will be on probation for a period of time. There might be certain conditions you will have to fulfill, such as drug testing or attending certain programs. However, if you successfully complete that probation, then the charges are dismissed at the end of your probation. Even if you do not get diversion or a CWOF there are still a number of different sentencing options that do not involve having to go to any sort of jail or prison.
What are Some Qualities to Look For When Retaining a Criminal Defense Attorney?
The best criminal defense attorneys review everything – police reports, your statement, evidence in the case – before making any judgements. Someone who moves forward without full knowledge of all aspects of your case is not the right choice. Someone who promises you the world without reviewing the facts is not the right person. Someone who says they have never lost a case is not the right person. These should all raise red flags and you should be wary of these types of approaches. The best thing to do is choose someone who is going to be able to review all the evidence, give you a clear and concise analysis of the evidence and be able to talk to you about your case in a way that you can understand.
What Sets You and Your Firm Apart in Handling Criminal Cases?
My philosophy has always been this: Our job is not to go in and just take a plea. Our first job is to win the case if we can. We will do everything in our power to find a way to win the case. However, if we cannot find a way to win the case, then we are going to negotiate the very best plea for you under the circumstances. Many clients come in and just want to end the case quickly. We understand feeling like this. We meet people who are going through the one of the worst experiences of their lives and it is normal to want to “get it over with”. However, we are here to help and support you with our professional expertise. We typically try to talk clients out of rushing the case to a conclusion until we have an opportunity to see all the evidence. Ultimately, it is the client’s decision, but we want to make sure we are giving you the best advice and getting you the best possible result.