Arraignment is the 1st time you go to court in a Massachusetts OUI matter. When you get there, go to the probation department. The probation department will ask questions that help determine if you need the court to appoint you a lawyer. After that, go into the main courtroom and wait for your name to be called. When your name is called, go up to the podium and listen to the judge and the clerk. The court will then read the charges of what law you are accused of breaking. Then you will be given a copy of the complaint. The complaint is the piece of paper the clerk just read aloud to everyone in the court room.
The pre-trial conference is the 2nd court date in most Massachusetts OUI matters. One purpose of this hearing is to let both lawyers report to the judge what information and paperwork they need to work the case out or bring it to trial. Similar to how every surgeon must discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with the patient, your lawyer must advise you on the risks and benefits of going to trial.
Compliance and Election
Discovery compliance and jury election is often your 3rd court date in a Massachusetts OUI matter. Discovery compliance means that the judge writes down on the docket sheet if both sides agree that all the required information and paperwork has been shared already. If your lawyer and the prosecutor do not agree, then you will have to come back for another hearing where motions are made regarding whether or not your lawyer is entitled to the information or paperwork sought. It is not unusual for the information about the chemical breath test to not be ready on the 1st compliance and election date. The second part of this court date is called jury election. Jury election is when the judge or clerk may inquire whether or not the accused has chosen to have a bench or jury trial yet. Often, this decision is left until the day of trial in a Massachusetts OUI matter. A bench trial is when the judge is the only person deciding the facts at trial.
Your 4th court date is already here. Motions can feel like a "mini trial" because law enforcement and witnesses on your behalf may testify to the court when answering questions by both lawyers. Once the evidence is heard, the judge will consider it and then decide on some facts and apply the law to those facts. Often, the prosecutor that handles the motion day will be assigned to your case going forward.
First Trial Date / Trial Assignment Date
Not every court or judge does a trial assignment date. Some judges will have the trial right then and there. Other judges will ask questions of both lawyers in open court to tie up loose ends and determine if the case will be ready to go when the jurors and witnesses are present on your next court date. One reason is that it takes lots of teamwork by all of the court staff to get a jury trial ready. Another reason is that all the lawyers, judges, and court staff respect the time of the jurors and witnesses. Nobody at the courthouse wants to waste this precious and important resource.
You've arrived extra early for court. You've mentally prepared yourself to deal with the uncertainty during the trial and are looking forward to a final decision by the end of the day. Not so fast! Your case might be 180 days old, while another case is even more old. The "older" case will go before yours. Sometimes, this means you will have to come back soon to have your case "heard" by the jury or the judge. Nobody can avoid this reality of trial practice, and cases may be disposed of on this date short of trial too. There are no guarantees in criminal law. Good luck and I hope this information helped put your mind at ease about some of the uncertainty your are facing in this tough time.
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