When charged with allegedly committing a crime in Massachusetts, your arraignment represents your first opportunity to go before a judge.
Mass.gov explains that you can expect the following three things to occur at your arraignment:
- The judge or clerk will read the charges against you.
- The judge will ask you how you plead.
- The judge will appoint a lawyer to represent you if you cannot afford to hire a private attorney.
You have the following three plea options:
- Not guilty: You deny the charges against you and request a trial.
- Guilty: You admit that you committed the crime for which officers charged you and are ready to face the penalties.
- Nolo contendere: You will not plead guilty to the charged crime, but also will not contest it and will submit to whatever penalties the judge imposes.
Bail or dangerousness hearing
Your arraignment may include a bail or dangerousness hearing. The former occurs if the prosecutor alleges that you should remain in jail because you likely will not appear at any future hearings otherwise. The judge has the authority to set a reasonable bail amount and keep you in jail until you post it. He or she likewise has the discretion to place other conditions on your pretrial release, such as making no contact with your alleged victim.
A dangerousness hearing occurs if the prosecutor alleges that your release from jail poses a danger to the community. The judge determines the credibility of the prosecutor’s allegation. If he or she decides that you can safely live and work in the community prior to your trial, he or she once again has the authority and discretion to set a reasonable bail amount and attach conditions to your pretrial release.