What is an arraignment in Massachusetts courts?

  • Irvin Rakhlin
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An arraignment is the formal initiation of criminal charges against an individual. It is at this time that a defendant is formally notified of the charges against him or her, the criminal penalties, and what conditions they will be subject to for the duration of their criminal case. It is also the moment when a judge decides if a monetary or cash bail is necessary to ensure the defendant’s presence in court.

Bail and dangerousness hearings

While the placing of bail on a defendant is not supposed to be punitive, unfortunately some prosecutors will ask for cash bails that they know are simply too high for a defendant to meet, as a way of securing their detention prior to a trial on the merits of the case. Also, it is quite common in cases for prosecutors to ask for what is called a Dangerousness Hearing at arraignment. Particularly in domestic assault and battery cases, this practice has become more common and pervasive. In requesting a dangerousness hearing, the prosecutor is suggesting to the court that no cash bail and no conditions of release will ensure the defendant’s presence in court and the safety of either the specific victim or the community at large. For these reasons it is critical to have an experienced and well-respected criminal defense attorney at your side when you attend your arraignment.

What is a summons arraignment?

Some individuals are fortunate enough to receive a summons to an arraignment, which gives them more time to carefully consider, evaluate and interview possible criminal defense attorneys. If you receive a summons for an arraignment in the mail, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. There may be situations where cases could be dismissed prior to a hearing if the appropriate steps are taken. Even if this is not possible, all of the time between the receipt of the summons and the eventual arraignment is critical to be used for the preparation of a sound and thoughtful bail argument.
On the other hand, many individuals are simply arrested at the scene of the alleged offense, and are subject to an arraignment at the next available Court business day. In those situations there is not much time to find the right criminal defense attorney, and this severely prejudices the defendant at their arraignment. Both the attorney and the client are working on a short time frame that can make it difficult to gather all of the appropriate documentation to argue for less restrictive conditions of release or a smaller monetary bail.
Whether you or loved one is facing an arraignment after an arrest, or a summons arraignment, you need to call Rakhlin Law at 617 564-0466 as soon as you can, so that preparation can begin on preparing an effective and thoughtful bail argument that will keep the defendant out of custody during the time of the case. When an individual is in custody awaiting trial, it can severely affect them, their livelihood, and of course their family and loved ones.

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