Am I Going to be Charged with a Crime?
If you suspect you are about to be charged with a crime in Massachusetts, there are a few steps in the initial process to be aware of. In most cases, the police will attempt to contact you prior to their application to the courts for a criminal complaint. It is common practice for police to reach out to the parties, particularly where the evidence against you is based on the statements of another witness. Your statement to the police can be an important opportunity to provide evidence of your innocence, but can also result in costly admissions to criminal activity that can be used against you at trial. Because police need "probable cause" to charge, if you can provide evidence that tends to show your innocence it is less likely they will apply for a complaint against you. But it is essential to speak with a lawyer before voluntarily providing information to the police, as criminal defendants are often convicted with their own statements as well.
In some cases, you have a right to challenge the legitimacy of charges before they issue at a "magistrate hearing." In Massachusetts, magistrate hearings are also called “clerk hearings,” “probable cause hearings,” and “show cause hearings.” All of these monikers refer to a hearing at a local court held by a clerk-magistrate (not a judge) to determine whether each element of each offense is supported by “probable cause.” If probable cause is lacking, the police' application will be denied. At times, police departments will decline to proceed with complaints even where probable cause is found, particularly where there is a first-time offender willing to undergo some form of treatment. Not all cases qualify for a magistrate hearing. Felony charges, for instance, can be brought straight to arraignment. For more on whether you have a right to a magistrate hearing, see Am I Entitled to a Magistrate Hearing?
A record of a crime is only created once you are brought before a judge and read each charge aloud at an arraignment. The steps you can take prior to arraignment to address potential charges are among the most important in the whole criminal process. If you can successfully prevent a charge from issuing, there will be no entry on your criminal record. Legally, it will be as if nothing ever happened, because the charge, in fact, was never brought into existence.This is the best possible resolution of a criminal matter. Be sure to contact an attorney who can discuss the particular facts and circumstances of your case.
Attorney Patrick Winn has successfully represented clients at magistrate hearings in Massachusetts, and offers a free consultation at (857) 415-2415.
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