When people in Boston and the surrounding areas are confronted with criminal charges—no matter what they are for—they will have questions about what happens next. People tend to maintain a vague notion of how the court system works based on watching the news, reading about criminal cases and seeing dramatizations on television and in film. However, that only gives part of the story and much of it is not fully accurate.
A key challenge is whether to take the case to trial or not. The decision can have a significant impact on a person’s entire future not just with criminal penalties that might be meted out if they are convicted or accept a plea, but with how a criminal record will affect trying to get employment, be admitted to schools and more.
Understand the facts about the entire criminal law process
Once a person is charged with a crime and has been arraigned, a series of steps will take place. A pretrial conference is when the case is either resolved in some way or the process begins for it to go to trial. The defendant’s legal representative will exchange information about the case with the prosecutor. With that, the defense will know the charges and the evidence. In some cases, there can be a motion to dismiss. It could be granted, depending on the severity of the crime, the amount of evidence and other factors.
If the case goes to trial, it must occur within one year from the arraignment. It can be extended and often is. Once the case goes to trial, it is important for a defendant to understand that regardless of how strongly they feel their defense is and what they think about the evidence, there is a level of unpredictability as to the outcome. It can be a jury trial where citizens will hear the evidence and decide on guilt or innocence. It can also be a bench trial where the judge will decide.
Once a verdict is given, the person will have the right to appeal if they are found guilty. If they are found not guilty, the case is over. After a person is convicted, the judge will give a sentence and, depending on the charges, there can be jail time, fines and various penalties.
Before deciding whether to go to trial, there are facts to consider. Most cases are resolved before trial. People who do not receive what they think is a reasonable offer to avoid trial like probation or a fine might want to take their chances at trial. Still, there is always a chance of a worse outcome when the jury or the judge decides on the case. The worst-case scenario should be considered and an informed choice made.
People facing criminal charges need qualified advice and help
Often, people who are arrested never thought they would be in that situation. This is especially true for people who are established in their community, have a job, own their own home, are raising a family and are viewed as positive influences.
Whether it is an allegation that they were driving under the influence, they got into a physical confrontation and were arrested for assault, had a domestic violence charge, were accused of having an illegal weapon, were said to be involved in white collar crimes or anything else, a comprehensive criminal defense strategy is useful to try and reach a positive outcome. Part of that is having qualified guidance and making an informed choice about going to trial or accepting a plea agreement and avoiding trial.