If I am stopped by the police and they begin to ask me questions about a crime, what should I do? Always remember that you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions. In some situations, you may be required to identify yourself. If a police officer begins reading your Miranda warnings (see the next FAQ), it is a serious situation. If you intentionally lie or mislead the police, you may be charged with additional offenses. You always have the right to remain silent.
What are Miranda Warnings? If you are in custody and the police want to ask you questions, you must be advised of your rights, as stated in the U.S. Supreme Court case - Miranda v. Arizona. These warnings advise you that:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Any statement you make may be used against you
- You have the right to have a lawyer present when you are questioned
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before questioning begins
- If you waive your rights and speak with the police, your statement may be used as evidence against you.
How is bond set for cases? After a person is arrested, he is typically taken before a magistrate. In most cases if you are arrested after the court is closed, the magistrate will come to the police station set a bond. If that amount is too high or if no bond is set, a hearing may be held before a judge and a request for bond may be made at that time. A decision made by a district court or juvenile court judge may be appealed to the Circuit Court.
How do lawyers set fees? We base our fee on the nature of the offense, the location in which the offense occurred, whether there has been serious injury to any party, and after a consideration of a person’s past criminal involvement. We do offer a free consultation for all cases.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor? In Massachusetts, a felony is any offense that carries the possibility of a state prison term. A felony conviction requires you to provide a one-time DNA sample to the Massachusetts State Police Labs and you must pay the cost of giving this DNA Sample. A misdemeanor is a less serious offense punishable by a fine and/ or a house of correction sentence of not more than of 2 ½ years.
Should I plead guilty or not guilty? This question can only be answered after a thorough discussion with your attorney and after your attorney has investigated the case. Decisions such as what plea to enter, whether to accept a plea bargain, and whether to have a jury trial, should only be made after you have a full understanding of your situation.
How is punishment decided in cases? Regardless of whether a jury hears the case or the case is heard by a judge without a jury, it is the judge that impose the sentence if you are found guilty. Depending on the type of charge, the facts heard during trial, your past criminal record, and other factors, a judge may impose a sentence of a fine, a period of probation, some committed time to then be followed by a period of probation (this is known as a split sentence), or the Judge can give a sentence incarceration (jail of prison time depending on the offense).
Do all drug offenses in Massachusetts carry a mandatory driver’s license suspension? No, the law in Massachusetts was recently changed so that only convictions for higher level drug offenses such as drug trafficking will have the impact of motor vehicle license loss.
How long will my license be suspended if I refuse to take a breath test? For an adult first offender, you will lose your license for 180 days. If you take the test and score .08 or higher, you will lose your license for 30 days and the results of your test will be used as evidence against you at trial.
What Is The Difference Between Possession Of A Firearm And Carrying A Firearm?Possessing a working firearm ( loaded or unloaded) without a FID license outside your home or place of business is called "Carrying a firearm". Prosecution must prove beyond a reasosnable doubt that a you possessed a working firearm to obtain a conviction. Be warned that possession is not only if the “firearm” is found on your person but can also be established if the firearm is found somewhere where you had knowledge of it and the ability to control the firearm. Carrying a firearm carries a mandatory minimum sentence of eighteen months in the house of correction.
If you possess a working firearm in your home of business but do have a valid FID card, this offense is know as illegal possession of a firearm. Penalties for a first offense can include 2 years House of Corrections or fine of $500 but does not carry a mandatory minimum sentence like Carrying a Firearm.
What is the difference between probation and parole? Probation is a sentence imposed by a judge of a period of supervision within the community instead of in prison. Parole is granted thru the decision of parole board (not the court) to allow inmates who have served a portion of their jail/prison sentence to complete the balance of their sentence under supervision within the community.
Probation is a criminal sentence of supervision within the community instead of incarceration. A person placed on probation must abide by the terms and conditions of probation. Supervised probation terms typically require the person to meet with their probation officer every 2 weeks, go to school, or look for work. Other terms can include required attendance at alcohol treatment or narcotic-abuse programs and educational classes on such subjects as anger management or good driving. The length of probation and its terms are enumerated at the sentencing and once the person has completed the terms of probation, he or she is free of court supervision.
Parole is something that may allow someone serving a committed jail or prison term to serve a portion of their sentence outside of correctional facility. After the offender, has served the minimum amount of time authorized, the parole board decides if the offender is ready to be released from incarceration to finish out the sentence on parole. Parole boards considers the nature and seriousness of the crime, the views of the victim, the progress the offender made in prison, how crowded the prison is, and whether the offender has a someplace to go in the community. If parole is granted, the offender must abide by terms and conditions similar those for probation for a specified period. If he or she completes the parole period, the criminal sentence is discharged.
Both probation and parole can be revoked if the offender commits another crime or seriously violates one of the conditions of release. The revocation proceeding requires written notice to the offender, an opportunity to explain and call witnesses, an impartial decision-maker, and a written decision stating the reasons for revocation. If parole is revoked, the parolee goes back to prison and serves the remainder of their sentence in jail or prison.
Why do some people get held on a cash bail and other people get released without having to post any cash? Some people may be released by way of a simple promise to appear, also known as being released on personal recognizance. However, for more serious misdemeanors or felonies, or where the accused has a prior record, posting bail may be required to secure release. The purpose of setting bail is two-fold: it is to ensure the presence of the accused at future court proceedings, and it is also to safeguard the community. There are many factors to consider: The bail schedule, seriousness of the offense, previous criminal record of the accused, whether the defendant has ties to the community, owns property, or is employed, and many others.