First, there's the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) Hearing. If you refuse to take the breath test, the arresting police officer takes your driver's license. Within 15 days following your arrest, you must challenge the suspension of your license; if you miss that window of time, you may automatically lose your right to drive for a minimum of six months. There are other issues to address at the Registry Hearing such as the ramifications of any Breath Test Refusal, the possibility of your receiving a Hardship License, or issues relating to getting an Ignition Interlock Device (IID).
CRIMINAL COURT PROCESS
The other legal matter that you'll need to defend is your criminal case. Because most of our clients have never been to court on a criminal charge, the different types of appearances and procedures can be very confusing. For purposes of explanation below, it's broken out step-by-step:
Following your arrest, if you are bailed out you'll get an arraignment date where the Judge reads and explains the charges to you. You will either plead "guilty" or "not guilty." The general practice is to plead "not guilty" because of the several options available to you. You and your attorney should take this opportunity to obtain copies of the complaint, the police report, and any copy of your prior criminal record from the Clerk's Office and/or the Probation Department.
The general practice is to meet with the District Attorney's Office to discuss the facts of the case and assess whether or not there is any possibility of resolving the case upon a plea bargain at the time of arraignment. If not, a Pre-Trial Conference will be scheduled.
If you're a first time offender, you may qualify for a Hardship License and the 24D Program at the RMV.
PREPARING FOR THE PRETRIAL CONFERENCE
If not yet resolved, for the weeks following arraignment the Defendant and his or her attorney discuss their discovery needs -- those written records, documents, or other documents needed from the Prosecutor in order to help get the case dismissed or have the charges greatly reduced. Discovery requests are made, and a firm meeting time, date, and place is scheduled to receive discovery requests and to discuss the case with the Prosecutor. During this waiting period, the defense investigates the facts, interviews witnesses, and takes necessary views and photographs of the arrest scene. If it becomes clear that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (through the District Attorney's Office) fails or refuses to furnish discovery requests, appropriate motions and proposed orders are filed.
Armed with facts and discovery, ready to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of the case, both sides attempt to resolve the matter prior to appearing before the Judge. If the case is to be resolved by plea, and the Defendant understands and fully agrees to any ramifications relating to the same, the case is settled. If not, your case is set for trial, and you and your attorney will likely file several motions -- such as a Motion to Suppress Evidence or a Motion to Produce Reports, etc. -- which will help you review and address how you may have had your constitutional rights violated or been treated improperly by law enforcement at the time of your arrest. At these Motion Hearings, witnesses may be called or police officers cross-examined -- all relating to the initial traffic stop or those tests that you took associated with that stop.
After choosing between having a Judge hear your case or going before a jury of six, the matter is heard. The Commonwealth goes first with their opening statement. These statements provide an outline of the case that the District Attorney expects to prove. The Prosecution then presents its case through direct examination of witnesses. Immediately thereafter, the Defense cross-examines these witnesses by discrediting their testimony. Once the Prosecution finishes presenting its case, the Prosecution rests. The Defendant then repeats the same process and puts its case on. Once the Defense rests, each side makes a closing (summary) argument. Following this, the Jury gets instructions and deliberates. Once they reach a verdict, the Defendant is either found not guilty, or in the case of a guilty verdict, the Judge then sentences the Defendant.
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