Structuring case outcomes to avoid a permanent record.
There are a number of misdemeanor crimes that Massachusetts courts tend to be lenient with, particularly when the defendant has a limited criminal history. These petty crimes include: Shoplifting, Disturbing the Peace, Disorderly Conduct, Operating with a Suspended License and Trespassing.
It is extremely important to retain an attorney before arraignment on charges like these. Although the charges carry very little chance of committed time, they will appear on your criminal record permanently as soon as you are arraigned. A good defense attorney can often persuade the District Attorney to “divert” your case before formal arraignment—particularly if you are a student, in the military, have no prior record, or are otherwise gainfully employed. This is called a “diversion program” and every county in Massachusetts uses some form of it. A diversion program usually requires the individual complete community service, anger management or counselling within a specified period of time (usually six months). If you comply with the conditions, your case will be dismissed prior to arraignment. Because arraignment is where the criminal process begins, an individual who completes “diversion” is never formally charged, and therefore has a clean record with no criminal entries.
As a prosecutor, Attorney Winn understood that one of the most important functions of a good District Attorney is recognizing the individuals who do not need to be ensnared in the criminal justice system, and providing them a fair way to avoid the long term consequences of a record.
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