The Institution of the Criminal Process – Arrest or Summons

Criminal cases in the Massachusetts District Court system begin in one of two ways: an arrest , or a summons . A. Arrest.  In many cases, the criminal process is started by an arrest of the accused by police. What a person does in the course of the arrest, in terms of giving a statement to or otherwise cooperating with police, is very important. In most District Court criminal cases, the entire police investigation is completed within a few hours of the arrest, before the accused even makes an initial court appearance. Statements of witnesses will be taken at the scene. Statements of accused will be taken at the scene, or at the police station following an arrest. It is

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Procedures in Court

A. Arraignment. Whether the criminal process is begun by an arrest or a summons, the procedure in court begins with the arraignment. The arraignment occurs on the first day the accused appears in court, and in the case of an arrest, is usually the next business day. The accused will be informed of what charges are alleged. Most courts will automatically enter a plea of not guilty on the behalf of the accused. The accused will find out if the government is seeking any bail (even if bail was already set by a bail commissioner at a police station the night before).

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Plea Bargaining

There are a variety of reasons to seek to plea out a case. In some cases, the case is so strong, including a confession by the accused, leaving little alternative but to seek a plea. In other cases, however, there may be advantages to resolving a case short of trial because the deal is a good one that results in no criminal record. Different alternatives are discussed briefly below.

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