Bail Procedure in Massachusetts: The Presumption is Personal Recognizance

Under M.G.L. c. 276 § 58, bail is made the exception to the release of an individual on personal recognizance. In other words, there is a presumption in the law that someone arrested should be released upon their promise to appear back in court on a given date. The exception to the rule is in capital or murder cases. If you have been arrested you must be brought before the court promptly for an arraignment or formal notification of the charge and to determine whether bail is necessary.

Under the bail statute, the District or Municipal Court justice will make a bail determination by taking into account:

“the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the potential penalty the person faces, the person’s family ties, financial resources, employment record and history of mental illness, his reputation in the community, his record of convictions, if any, any illegal drug distribution or present drug dependency, any flight to avoid prosecution or fraudulent use of an alias or false identification, any failure to appear at any court proceeding to answer to an offense, whether the acts involve abuse. . . or violation of a temporary or permanent restraining order . . . or whether the person has any history of [such] orders . . . and whether he is on release pending sentence or appeal for any conviciton.”

A judge may also set special conditions of release restricting a person from having contact with an alleged victim of the crime and any witness to the case. A judge also has inherent authority to revoke bail and hold a defendant for breach of any imposed restriction, including picking up any new offenses while awaiting trial on the original offense. See Paquette v. Commonwealth, 440 Mass. 121, 128 (2003).

A special related bail situation involves the use of a Governor’s Warrant when another State is attempting to seize a fugitive hiding or residing in Massachusetts in order to get that individual to answer to a criminal complaint in their State. When a proper request is made by the appropriate executive of that foreign State the Governor of Massachusetts will issue a warrant for fugitive’s arrest and detention.

Attorney Murphy has successfully argued for the release detained clients on personal recognizance and has vast experience with the bail statute in Massachusetts. If you or someone you care about has been charged with a crime in any Massachusetts court and face the prospect of a bail hearing, contact Attorney Patrick Murphy as soon as possible so that he may conduct a prompt and thorough interview of you and review the charges in your case in order to successfully represent you in court.


Massachusetts Criminal Law, A Prosecutor’s Guide 2010

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