The Massachusetts District Court system serves as a crucial pillar of justice, handling a diverse range of criminal cases, from misdemeanors to lower-level felonies. If you or a loved one find yourselves involved in the District Court criminal process, understanding the steps involved can provide clarity and peace of mind.


The journey through the Massachusetts District Court criminal process begins with the arraignment. This initial court appearance involves the defendant being informed of the charges against them, advised of their rights, and the court automatically enters a plea of not guilty on their behalf. Bail or conditions of release may also be set during the arraignment, determining whether the defendant remains in custody or is released pending trial.

Pre-Trial Proceedings

Following arraignment, the pre-trial phase kicks in. During this stage, the prosecution and defense exchange evidence in a process known as discovery. Both sides assess the strength of their cases and may engage in plea negotiations to potentially reach a plea agreement. Additionally, pre-trial motions can be filed, addressing legal issues that may impact the case’s outcome.  Typical pre-trial motions includes Motions to Dismiss and Motions to Suppress. About once a month there will be hearings to check in on the status of requested discovery, these are called Compliance and Election dates.

Motion Hearings

In some instances, motion hearings may take place to address specific legal matters. These hearings can involve discussions about the admissibility of evidence, requests to suppress certain statements or information, or motions to dismiss the case based on legal grounds. Such hearings ensure that the rights of the defendant are upheld and that the trial proceeds fairly.


At the heart of the Massachusetts District Court criminal process lies the trial. The trial can be conducted before a judge (bench trial) or with a jury of 6 people (jury trial). Both sides present their evidence, witnesses testify, and legal arguments are presented. The prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction.  If the prosecutor fails to carry this burden, the person will be found not guilty.


Navigating the Massachusetts District Court criminal process can be complex and challenging. It’s essential to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side to guide you through each stage and ensure that your rights are protected. Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor or a lower-level felony, understanding these steps can empower you to make informed decisions and work toward a fair resolution.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss your case with one of our attorneys, please call or text (617) 227-8383.