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What rights does one who is accused of a criminal charge have?

When people are charged with a crime in Massachusetts, it is not uncommon for many of them to be unaware of the rights they have. People who are accused have both constitutional and statutory protections in place to ensure their rights are guarded.

Massachusetts has delineated several rights that people who are accused have during a criminal case. When a person is arrested or served with a summons to appear for criminal charges, the arresting officer must inform them of the charges for which they are being arrested. If the officer refuses or lies to them about the charges, the officer may be punished by up to a year in jail or a fine. People who are charged with an offense that could result in a state prison penalty have the right to be proceeded against by indictment unless the district and superior courts both have jurisdiction and the district court retains the case. People also have the right to waive an indictment, and if they do, the court will hold a probable cause hearing unless that is waived as well.

Defendants have the right to counsel or to defend themselves. An accused person can call witnesses and offer evidence as needed in defense of the charges. People who have been accused of a DWI can request a medical examination at his or her own expense. People may not be convicted unless they plead guilty to a charge in open court or unless they are convicted after a trial.

There are numerous other rights a criminal defendant has. When someone has been accused of a crime, they may benefit from speaking with a criminal defense attorney for advice about their case and their rights. It is important to note that each situation is unique, and the purpose of this blog is strictly informative.

Source: The 188th General Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "General Laws Part IV Title I Chapter 263", October 29, 2014

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