If you or your loved one has been charged with a crime in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you are likely left feeling overwhelmed with many questions and endless doubts. The first decision that you need to make is which lawyer will handle the case and I invite you to contact my office for a free consultation. Until you hire an experienced Cambridge criminal defense attorney, here are useful answers to some of the most frequently asked criminal law questions:
Should I Speak to the Police?
No. Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have the legal right to remain silent. Without exception, it is recommended that you take advantage of this right. You should never try to talk your way out of trouble or out of an arrest. Indeed, even if you are 100 percent confident that you did nothing wrong, please do not give a statement to the police without first speaking to your Cambridge criminal defense lawyer.
What Happens After an Arrest?
Following an arrest, a person will generally be brought to a Cambridge police station and ‘booked’. The booking offer will ask you for personal identifying information like your date of birth, address, and social security number in order to determine whether you have a criminal record or open warrants. Depending on the nature of the charges, your record, whether you have open warrants, and various factors, you may be released from the police station after you have been booked upon payment of a $40 bail commissioner fee and bail (if it has been set). If you have been charged with a domestic abuse, you must be held for six hours before you can be released. Alternatively, the bail commissioner may decline to set bail and you will be held at the station until the start of the next business day at which time you will be brought to court. You will also be held until brought to court if bail is set and not paid. Courts are not open on weekends and holidays so if you get arrested on Friday evening before a long weekend and do not bail out, you will be held at the police station until the following Tuesday morning.
Will the Officers Search Me?
Yes, you will most likely be searched or at least “pat frisked” at some point during your encounter with police and if you are placed under arrest you will definitely be searched. If the police ask for your permission to search or “pat frisk” you, do not give them consent. The officer may conduct the search anyway, but by refusing to give permission, you keep future legal options open: if you are unlawfully searched and have not consented to the search any property that the officer seized from the search to be used as evidence against you can be suppressed. Suppression is when a judge rules that items seized cannot be used against you as evidence because they were found and and taken illegally. An experienced Cambridge criminal defense attorney can try to convince a judge to suppress the evidence on the grounds that it was collected unlawfully.
Remember: even if you don’t agree to the search, do not physically refuse or pull away from the officer when he searches you. You may have recourse to an illegal pat frisk or search in the courts, but physically resisting to a search can result in additional charges.
How Does Bail Work? Will We Get Our Money Back?
Bail money is paid to secure a person’s temporary release while their criminal case is ongoing. Bail is not offered in every case, though it is offered in most cases. When bail is an option and it is paid, the person who pays the bail will receive their money back when the case is over as long as the person who was charged returns to court on every scheduled date.
Bail set by a judge in court is separate and distinct from bail set by a bail commissioner for a person under arrest at a police station prior to going to court. In practical terms that means that even if you are released from a police station upon payment of the $40 bail commissioner feel and no had been bail set, you could still walk into court for your arraignment and have the judge set bail. However, walking into court as required of you on the morning of your arraignment is a good indicator to the judge that you can be trusted to return to court on future court dates so you are less likely to have bail imposed at your arraignment.
When and How Will Criminal Charges Issue?
Officers will prepare an incident report outlining the basis for their department seeking charges against the accused individual. The police department will apply for criminal charges to issue and the application will be reviewed by the Clerk Magistrate of the local district court. If the clerk finds probable cause to support the charge(s) the charge(s) will issue. Sometimes the application process is done immediately following a person being arrested, and sometimes an individual who has not arrested will receive notice of a “summons arraignment” in the mail at which time they will go to court to answer to the charge.
If Plan on Pleading Guilty, Should I Hire an Attorney?
Yes, even if you are set on pleading guilty, you still owe it to yourself to have a qualified defense attorney by your side. All criminal defendants have a right to an attorney and you would be wise to never enter a plea without first consulting with an attorney. Criminal convictions have enormous consequences beyond the punishment imposed by the court; individuals with records suffer employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and may not qualify for educational financial aid and other loans. An experienced Cambridge criminal defense attorney can review the evidence against you and advise you whether a guilty plea is an advisable option. It may be a better idea to the fight the case or to otherwise resolve the case in a manner that does not result in a criminal conviction.
I Heard That There is a Warrant Out for My Arrest, What Should I Do?
If you believe that Cambridge police or Massachusetts State Police are looking for you, you need to call a qualified criminal defense lawyer today. Do not wait; that warrant will not go away on its own. The only way to fix the problem is to come forward, and to take action. Your lawyer will be able to:
- Review the circumstances of the case;
- Explain your rights to you;
- Assess your legal options; and
- Help you determine what you should do next.
What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?
The Massachusetts Sentencing Commission has a master crime list, which includes all possible felony and misdemeanor offenses under state law. Felonies are far more serious offenses than are misdemeanors and they generally carry state prison as a sentencing option while misdemeanors can only be punished in the House of Correction (county jail) or may not carry any possibility of a jail sentence. It is important to note that in some cases, even if the evidence against you is strong, your attorney can help you get potential felony charges reduced to misdemeanor charges.
I Need Legal Assistance Now, What Should I Do?
You need to speak to a Cambridge criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. For immediate help with your case, please call The Law Offices of Keren Goldenberg for a consultation.