In simplest terms, a misdemeanor is a less serious crime, and a felony is a more serious crime. Massachusetts defines a felony as any crime that has the possibility of a state prison sentence. All other crimes are considered misdemeanors. Felonies are much more serious crimes than misdemeanors. However, just because a person is charged with a felony does not automatically mean that that person will be sentenced to state prison or be committed at all. Many people who are charged with felonies can negotiate for probation in the event that the case cannot be won.
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 that 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 are able to 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.
We’re here to answer your questions and help you throughout the process
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