What Happens at a Police Station in Massachusetts
Once you arrive at the police station, you will be booked, photographed and fingerprinted. During the booking, you will be asked some questions concerning basic information about yourself such as name, date of birth, address and phone number. You can answer these basic informational questions, but still should not answer any questions about the charges and the incident that led to your arrest.
You may make a phone call to whoever you’d like — usually to a friend or family member.
If it is early enough in the day, you will go straight to the courthouse after booking for the arraignment.
If it is too late to get to court you will probably spend at least a couple of hours (sometimes much more) waiting for a bail commissioner to arrive to determine whether to set a bail on you and, if so how much. Most of the time, there is just a one-time non-refundable fee of $40. Then you should be able to leave. If there is a bail and it is too high for you to make at that time, you will be brought into court for the arraignment and to argue a lower bail at the very next business day. (More on bail below) That should be the very next day. So, for example, if you are arrested on a Tuesday night, you will go to court Wednesday morning. However, if it is a weekend, since courts are closed on Saturday and Sunday, you will have to wait until the next business day which would be Monday. In the worst case situation, if you are arrested at the beginning of a three-day holiday weekend with the courts closed for the Monday holiday, you could wind up sitting for several days until Tuesday morning.
If you are released from the police station, you will be required to show up at the local courthouse the very next business day. You must show up or else the court will issue a default warrant for your arrest. Be there on time and it is best to dress appropriately. There is no specific dress code so a male doesn’t have to wear a jacket and tie and a female does not have to wear a business suit, but there are judges who will expect you to dress in a way that shows respect for the court. So it is inadvisable to show up wearing such things as flip-flops, tank tops, sweat pants or cut-off shorts.
When you arrive at the courthouse, report to probation to check-in. Again, they will just be asking you for basic information about yourself such as name, date of birth, address and phone number. If you are claiming indigency, cannot afford a lawyer and wish to receive a court-appointed bar advocate attorney, they will ask you a number of questions about your finances to see if you qualify and you will have to sign a financial affidavit.
Then you will go into the courtroom and wait for your name to be called. Everyone is given the same arrival time of 9:00 am, so you will have to wait your turn to be called in what could be a crowded courthouse.
When you are called, your charges will be formally read to you. This is what makes us different than many other countries where people are arrested and not told for months what the accusations against them are and for what charge they were arrested.
A not guilty plea is usually entered at that time. The police report giving the police version of the story against you is available that morning. Then you are given a date to come back to court usually between a month or two months from then. The court will warn you that if you get arrested while this current case is ongoing, you might be held in custody. The judge might also set conditions for you to abide by during the pendency of the case including such things as staying away from a particular location or person or an order forbidding use of alcohol and drugs.
In all likelihood, you will be out of the courthouse on the day of your arraignment some time that morning. In rare instances, one is stuck there all day until the court session closes around 4:30.
For some, though, where there is a question of bail, the arraignment is also where bail is determined. If bail was set by the bail commissioner earlier back at the police station, and the particular accused person cannot afford it, they and their attorney can argue before the judge for a lower bail or no bail at the arraignment.
Or, even if no bail was requested from them at the time of the arrest or they paid a bail back at the police station, there is a chance that bail could still be set against them at the arraignment.
Bail is generally determined by whether the judge believes that the accused defendant might pose a risk of flight and not return on future court dates. At a bail hearing, the judge will consider a number of factors to determine this including:
- Whether the defendant has a previous criminal history;
- And, if so, did they have a number of defaults in the past where they did not show up to court dates;
- The nature of the charges whether they are for very serious offenses;
- The potential penalty for the accused crime. For example, if there is a chance of lengthy incarceration that might be an incentive for the accused person to flee and not return to court;
- Whether the person was on probation or parole for an earlier offense when they got arrested for this new crime;
- The defendant’s ties to the community. It is assumed by the court that someone with many family members in the area, who always lived in the general area, and is employed there and very involved in the community will be less inclined to want to become a fugitive and leave his family and familiar home. This, as opposed to someone who is just passing through the area of the arrest and has no ties to the community or family, jobs or roots.
- Whether the accused person has a history of serious alcohol or drug abuse.
Although being held on bail is generally determined by the risk of flight a defendant poses, if there is concern for the potential safety of an individual or the community caused by the defendant, the prosecutor can move for a dangerousness hearing where it will be argued whether the defendant will be held without bail.
Counsel at Arraignment
It is best to have an attorney at every step of the process and, if possible, to show up at the arraignment with you the day after the arrest. Most criminal defense attorneys charge a flat fee for the entire case and do not charge extra to do an arraignment.
However, if you are unable to hire an attorney to be there at the beginning of your case for the arraignment within hours of your arrest, you don’t need to panic. If there is an attempt to hold you on bail and you are not indigent, the court will still likely appoint you an attorney for that first day even if it will only be for that one day.
An attorney can be crucial at the very beginning. Perhaps you would be eligible for some kind of diversion program that could ultimately result in a complete dismissal of your case, but that you must notify the court of just prior to or during the arraignment. There are a number of such diversion programs usually for the more minor offenses that are available to young people, veterans and those who commit certain relatively minor crimes. Without proper guidance from counsel, you might not be aware of these programs and have to risk fighting the charge the entire way.
Or a first rate experienced attorney might give you the best chance of avoiding being held on bail or being found to be dangerous and therefore held incarcerated without any bail.
It is true that you can’t be forced to be represented by an attorney and everyone in the United States has the right to be their own counsel even if charged with the most serious charge which is murder. But legal cases can be complex and, if one wants to represent themselves they might be at a disadvantage of not knowing the law and legal procedures such as certain evidentiary and non-evidentiary motions and rules such as the complicated rules of evidence. While no guarantees as to the results of a case can ever be made, an experienced attorney will give will give you your best opportunity of getting the finest result if you go through the unfortunate experience of being arrested.
Being arrested is usually a terrifying, overwhelming experience as you suddenly find yourself in a situation over which you have absolutely no control. Not only that, but it can result in extreme consequences to your life potentially including incarceration; loss of a job or entire career; loss of housing; loss of licenses; loss of relationships or family; great expenses; and damage to one’s reputation and standing in the community.
An arrest itself, though, might not be the end of the world as most of the serious consequences happen if you are eventually actually found guilty, convicted and then receive a criminal record. An arrest merely means that you are a person accused and does not mean you have been found to have done anything wrong. People who are completely and factually innocent get accused more often than you’d think, so no stigma should attach to an arrest. It is the potential conviction down the line that is a greater problem.
In order to charge someone with a crime, an arrest doe not necessarily have to take place. Sometimes, if the offense is minor, the police will tell you that you will eventually be receiving a summons in the mail ordering you to appear in court. If arrested, however, you will be handcuffed, read your rights, placed in a police vehicle, and transported to the police station.
Do Not Make a Statement to the Police
The first thing you need to know is not to speak to the police. People think that they can talk their way out of the arrest. That almost never happens. It is unlikely anything you say can prevent the charges once the allegations are made. The police’s goal is usually to get your statement so that it can eventually be used against you. They will write it down and then hand it off to the prosecutors at the court. The police officer can rarely make any deals with an accused person. The government person who might be able to make a deal with you way down the line during the court process would be a prosecutor.
It is generally not advisable to speak with the police even if you are genuinely innocent. For example, if you are truly upset and a bit confused what is going on, if you make the slightest innocent error or slip of the tongue in what you say, it will definitely be used against you. You can get charged with some form of obstruction of justice such as making a false statement to a police officer or, although it may not make sense to you, such false statements here in Massachusetts can trigger the witness intimidation statutes even though innocent errors in your statement do not seem to have anything to do with intimidation. Your protestations that you made a mistake in the heat of the moment under pressure might not likely be believed.
Sometimes those who are arrested don’t realize that they are giving valuable information against themselves or even accidentally confessing. For example, if you are being accused of drunk driving and the police officer asks you how many you had to drink, you might think you are helping yourself by saying, “Only a couple.” You might not realize that, even if that is not proof positive that you were driving under the influence of alcohol which is the crime, it is helpful to the police that at least you just confessed to drinking and driving. Or a person may be accused of a drug transaction thinks he is helping himself by blurting out, “I didn’t sell any drugs or make any money. I simply gave some to some friends for no money.” They don’t realize that the crime they are being accused of is drug distribution, not drug selling. So, even if they never made a dime of profit, they are still confessing to the distribution charge.
A police officer might attempt to cajole a statement out of you by saying something like, “If you won’t talk to us, that must mean you’re guilty. If you were innocent and didn’t do anything, you would talk to us.” That is simply not true. You can reply that you wish to exercise your right to speak with an attorney first which even a truly innocent person would be advised to do.
Indecent assault and battery is essentially any kind of intentional unconsented-to touching of the private area of another person.
Private areas include genital areas, public areas, buttocks, breast, thighs and abdomen or other areas. However, charges of indecent assault and battery may not be limited to those areas and it is open to interpretation by what would be considered offensive or immoral under contemporary standards of decency. It may also be determined by the context in which the touching occurred. For example, in certain instances, hugging or kissing another person against their will could very well qualify. Such a charge would apply whether the victim was either clothed or unclothed.
The charge of indecent assault and battery differs from rape that is defined as an unconsented-to sexual intercourse with another person who is compelled to submit by either force or threat of bodily injury.
It also differs from a regular assault and battery which is defined as an unconsented touching of another person though not necessarily of a sexual nature.
There are different penalties for indecent assault and battery on a person aged 14 or older or indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of 14. If the victim was under the age of 14, even if the minor consented to the touching, it would still be a crime. This is because any victim under the age of 14 is considered under the law to lack capacity to consent. That means that the child is so young that he or she is considered legally incapable of consenting to such sexual contact.
This is also true of the charge of indecent assault and battery on a person with intellectual disabilities since they, too, would be considered, under the law, as having no ability to make a reasoned consent. Additionally, there are statutes outlawing indecent assault and battery on an elderly person or person with a physical disability as they may be extra vulnerable to a physical assault.
To be convicted of indecent assault and battery, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The alleged person was of a certain age;
- The touching was intentionally on purpose;
- The touching was either without the permission of the alleged victim or not justifiable;
- That the touching was, by today’s standards, indecent and offensive meaning that the touching could be reasonably and commonly understood to be that of a sexual nature particularly that the area of the body touched was considered private such as the breast, buttocks or genital areas;
If convicted of indecent assault and battery of a victim 14 years or older, the penalties include up to two and one-half years in the House of Correction or five years in state prison.
If convicted of indecent assault and battery of a victim under the age of 14 years, the penalties include up to two and one-half years in the House of Correction or ten years in state prison.
Additionally, upon conviction, it is a requirement that one register with the Sex Offender Registry Board. Obviously, being on the sex offender registry can lead to a variety of severe consequences including its effect on housing, jobs, travel, immigration status, and general reputation in the community.
Also, it is a requirement that, as with most sex offenses, one must wear a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet during the entire period of probation one receives which could typically be anywhere up to 5 or 10 years. During that period of time wearing the mandatory GPS device, one may not leave the Commonwealth of Massachusetts although it might be possible under certain circumstances, to go before a judge to get permission to travel on a particular specific occasion that comes up.
The law recognizes a number of defenses to indecent assault and battery to try to ensure that an innocent person is not falsely accused. Many of the defenses pertain to the issue of consent.
- Did the accused not realize the intoxication of the alleged victim by either drugs or alcohol had reached a level where, even though consent was given or no lack of consent was expressed, the alleged victim was not legally capable at the time?
- Did the accused wrongly presume that there was consent because there had been consensual sexual contact in the past with the alleged victim?
- Was there a genuine mistake through words or actions that consent had been given?
- Was the touching purely by accident or was it incidental?
- Did the incident, in fact, never even happen and a false accusation is being made to get revenge for an unrelated reason?
The law of indecent assault and battery is vaguely written, subject to interpretation and is complicated in its application. It is important to get the best representation possible by a veteran attorney with long experience in representing people falsely accused of the charge of indecent assault and battery. This is particularly true in that the legal penalty of being listed on the sex offender registry can last a lifetime far beyond even a period of incarceration or probation.
There are several reasons why an individual would appear before the Sex Offender Registry Board. These might include either a hearing to try and get off of the Sex Offender Registry or to try and lower their Sex Offender Registry classification level from either Level 3 or Level 2.
What the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) is looking for is to see if you have a track record of going for a longer period of time staying out of trouble, getting treatment and living a life of stability and responsibility.
For example, the best case profile one can present is that of a person who is employed or getting an education, has a family or long-term relationships, friends, active in the community, long-term ties such as not constantly moving, and does a lot of mainstream things such as dinners or regular card games or vacations with family and friends. This, as opposed to someone who has few connections to family or friends, never holds a job, constantly moves from place to place and has no connection to anyone or anything. These may seem to be unfair vague generalities as certainly, no one can predict with absolute certainty who will commit future crimes and who will not. However, the theory, supposedly backed by research studies, is asserted that people who lead stable lives with connections to family and friends tend to have dramatically lower re-offense rates.
So, if one is requesting reclassification to a lower level or to terminate early your obligation to be on the Registry at all, but not requesting a hearing, documents to be sent in might include:
- A letter or comprehensive evaluation from a forensic therapist who specializes in sexual issues that can include such things as reasons why, in their expert opinion, you do not present as high a risk of ever reoffending or present as high a danger to the community. The forensic therapist can also note the course of treatment you’ve been undergoing and how actively engaged in it you have been. Use of a forensic psychologist is very helpful for this process and is highly recommended.
- Any documentation that you have been living for quite some time a life of stability and responsibility.
- Letters from family, friends, teachers, employers, clergy, or community leaders noting the kind of good mainstream contributing life you’ve been living.
- Confirmation that you’ve been steadily employed or engaged in education.
- Perhaps you’ve been engaged in doing for others through community service, charitable groups, the church, volunteering on projects or just doing things for other on a personal level such as shoveling the snow of elderly neighbors for free without being asked.
- Evidence of any programs you’ve been engaged in such as drug or alcohol treatment programs, if appropriate.
- Records from prison, jail or probation of how well you did while either incarcerated or on probation.
What to Expect During a Sex Offender Board Hearing
If one is requesting a hearing, these documents should also be submitted. At the hearing, one can testify oneself, have a forensic therapist testify and also have family, friends, teachers, employers, clergy or community leaders or anyone you believe would be helpful to testify about your character and your life.
Remember, the hearing is not a retrial of the case and you are not there to treat it as an appeal and to argue the facts of the old charges to try to prove your innocence, You can exercise those rights in another forum of the courts through the appeal process. Here, the results of your trial or plea are assumed and the purpose of the SORB hearing is solely to determine what level of danger the hearing examiners at the Sex Offender Registry Board determine you to present.
The burden of proof is on the Board using the standard of clear and convincing evidence to prove their designated classification level. The sex offender does, however, retain an initial burden of production to come up with new information to introduce evidence of changed circumstances showing that he or she “does not pose a risk to re-offend or a danger to the public.”
If the petitioner opts for an actual hearing before the board, it is almost the same as an initial classification hearing. He or she has the right to an attorney. The hearings are not held in courtrooms. It is usually in a room sitting around a table. The hearings are private and members of the public are not allowed to attend. Sitting at the table are the petitioner and petitioner’s counsel. There is a hearing examiner or examiners. There is also an attorney from the Sex Offender Registry who essentially acts as opposing counsel. The SORB attorney generally introduces no witnesses and just submits the paperwork regarding the case as the evidence.
At the hearing, both attorneys may make opening statements. Then the petitioner can bring in witnesses one at a time. Witnesses might include the forensic therapist to give an expert opinion on the potential dangerousness or lack thereof of the petitioner; the friends and family of the petitioner; the petitioner his or her self; and whoever else one might think could give relevant insight such as teachers, employers, clergy or community leaders. The petitioner’s attorney will question these witnesses and the SORB attorney may or may not choose to cross-examine them. Then, both attorneys may give closing arguments.
The hearing examiner then usually does not announce a result right away. The hearing examiner will review all the evidence and testimony submitted and consider it along with a variety of other factors including how long the petitioner has been in the community; the seriousness of the original offense; the number of offenses committed; the offender’s behavior while either incarcerated or on probation; and whether there is a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
An experienced veteran attorney who knows the law and procedures before the Sex Offender Registry Board can help shepherd you through the process every step of the way from helping you determine who your witnesses are to gathering the proper documents to drafting a memorandum that presents all the arguments in your favor to selecting the expert forensic evaluator to do the questioning and arguing your case at the hearing which is similar in some ways to a trial.
Once you’re listed on the Sex Offender Registry in Massachusetts and you’ve been given a classification level this is not the final word permanently etched in stone. If you’ve been designated as a Level 3 (high risk) or a Level 2 (moderate risk), you can, in the future, apply to get reclassified one or two levels lower all the way down to Level 1 (low risk).
However, a period of time must go by. You can apply to be reclassified every three years, provided that, if you were, in fact, incarcerated for the offense, you must have been released and out in the community for at least 5 years.
In order to apply for a reclassification, you must make the request in writing. Then you have a choice – either request an actual hearing before the board or simply submit in writing the reasons why it would be more accurate to place you at a lower classification level and include whatever documentation you have to offer.
The petitioner is required to show “changed circumstances” since the last time they were before the board for determination of their classification level.
Are you interested in lowering your sex offender registry classification level? Contact expert criminal defense lawyer Peter Elikann today for a free legal consult.