Articles Posted in Bail Hearings

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion affirming a lower court’s decision not to reduce a defendant’s bail as he awaits trial for several Massachusetts sex offenses, including indecent assault and battery on a person age fourteen or older. The case highlights the challenges many defendants face—even during the COVID-19 pandemic—when trying to secure pretrial release.

Under state and federal law, courts must only consider certain factors when setting a defendant’s bail. In general, bail should not be a punishment to keep someone incarcerated while they await trial. Instead, bail should be used to secure their presence at trial. When determining what amount of bail is appropriate, courts consider the following factors:

  • The nature of the offense;

Most people are familiar with the fact that a defendant can file an appeal if they are convicted of a Massachusetts crime. One aspect of the appellate process that is less commonly realized is that the court does not necessarily need to suspend a defendant’s sentence pending appeal.

Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug trafficking appeal in which the defendant challenged the court’s decision to keep her on house arrest while her appeal was pending. In that case, the defendant was arrested and charged with several drug offenses back in 2014. At her arraignment, the defendant was released on her own recognizance, meaning she was not required to post bail. House arrest was not a condition of her release, and she showed up at every court date without issue.

At trial, a jury convicted the defendant of drug trafficking, and the judge sentenced her to five years of incarceration. The defendant appealed her sentence, which, if granted, may require a new trial. The defendant asked the court to suspend her sentence while her appeal was pending. In support of her request, the defendant told the court that all her family lives in the area and that she was released on her own recognizance pending trial without ever missing a court date.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous effect on the country’s ability to function. Schools, stores, and government functions have all been temporarily shut down. For the most part, this includes the Massachusetts court system. In fact, thousands of people who have been arrested and are awaiting trial have had their trial dates pushed back due to the pandemic. Most recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court explained that no jury trials would be held until September, at the earliest.

Any delay in a Massachusetts criminal trial can be anxiety-inducing, as defendants often look forward to having their day in court where, hopefully, they can prove their innocence. For those defendants in state or local custody, the delay caused by COVID-19 is even more impactful, extending the amount of time they are away from friends, family, and employment opportunities. This is especially concerning because these individuals enjoy the presumption of innocence under the United States Constitution. However, despite that fact, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court previously stated that the delay attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic would not count as calculable time under the state’s speedy trial laws. Thus, while most cases must be brought within 12 months of arraignment, under the current conditions, this period has been extended.

In a recent opinion, the Massachusetts Judicial Supreme Court extended its application of the above principle, holding that COVID-19-related delays will similarly not count towards the limits on pre-trial incarceration. The case arose when judges in three separate cases heard motions from defendants for pre-trial release. In each of these motions, the defendant asked the judge to consider the delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when calculating the number of days they had been in custody. Thus, under the court’s recent ruling, the days a defendant is held in custody pending trial from March 13, 2020, to September 8, 2020, will not count towards any actual calculation of pre-trial incarceration. The practical effect of this ruling is that many who are awaiting trial, and may otherwise have been entitled to release due to the delay, must stay in custody until they can afford to post bail or reach their trial date.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the country, the nation’s prisons are quickly becoming hotspots for the virus. Indeed, a recent news article documents the pervasiveness of COVID-19 in state prisons across the country. Massachusetts prisons are no exception. A local news outlet recently reported that more than 150 inmates and staff have contracted the coronavirus in the state’s jails and prisons.

Given this reality, many have raised concerns over the safety of those who are in custody. Since the beginning of the pandemic, civil rights organizations and defense attorneys have tried to get the courts to release as many incarcerated people as possible, with some success. Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down an opinion discussing how lower courts should handle petitions for release in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court first acknowledged the safety concerns surrounding the continued incarceration of individuals during the pandemic, noting that the “unprecedented and urgent conditions created by the global COVID19 pandemic necessitated judicial action to reduce the population of those held in custody.”

According to reports, Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was denied release on his first degree murder charge during his appeal to be released on bail.The decision, which was handed down by a superior court judge upheld the prior ruling of a district court judge shortly following Hernandez’s arraignment for the murder charge and five additional weapons charges in relation to the alleged killing of Odin Lloyd. The evidence for weapons charges allegedly stems from the recovery of .22 and .45 caliber ammunition recovered from a condo where Hernandez had allegedly been present recently.

In the ruling, the judge expressed the opinion that although circumstantial, the current evidence suggests that Hernandez committed the crime in a cold-blooded manner, suggesting that he does not conform to societal rules, and is therefore a potential flight risk should he be released on bail.

Hernandez’s next scheduled appearance in relation to the charges is tentatively set for July 24 for a probable cause hearing, although there is a chance that prosecutors could schedule a grand jury prior to then in order to proceed with a formal indictment.
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Waltham, Massachusetts lawman Thomas M. LaCroix, the city’s chief police officer, was arraigned in Concord District Court on two charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and threats charges and was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing in court set for this Tuesday.

LaCroix is accused of attacking and injuring his wife and her female friend in two separate incidents at his home in Maynard, Massachusetts. LaCroix is said to have used a bicycle rack and a countertop as the dangerous weapons in the alleged attack. Further details about the case have yet to be released according to the report of the incidents in the Boston Globe. The prosecutor is seeking medical records,if any, of Mrs. LaCroix to substantiate the alleged injuries in the case. Waltham’s Mayor, Jeannette A. McCarthy deemed the arrest a “serious matter” and named the city’s Deputy Chief to act as Chief in place of LaCroix. LaCroix earns about $160,000.00 per year and has been suspended with pay and his badge and gun have been taken away from him by the Waltham police.

Domestic assault and battery in Massachusetts is taken seriously by prosecutors and the courts. When a person who is sworn to uphold and enforce the law gets in this type of trouble the case get extraordinary coverage and scrutiny. The public and the press will follow the matter closely to determine if the accused is treated differently than anyone else accused of such a crime. Right now we do not now all the details in this case and what really happened. Apparently, Mrs. LaCroix alleged that she was assaulted by her husband but she did not call the police when it initially happened. She went to a female friend’s house. The friend did not call the police either despite the fact that she allegedly heard LaCroix’s story and saw injuries. Remarkably, they both decided to go back to where the alleged perpetrator was at home. According to the report this is when the second alleged assault took place involving the wife and her friend. Sometime after this alleged assault the police were finally called. It is not clear how much time had elapsed between the first and second alleged incidents and when someone decided to call the police.

Although the police report and the prosecutions summary of the case were impounded by the court, at first glance, it does not appear that the chief has been treated fairly so far in this case. We can assume that the chief does not have a prior criminal history and, therefore, no history of defaults in court. From the news report, he apparently was a pretty good police officer rising through the ranks while earning his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree before being named police chief in Waltham. Is the District Attorney’s office looking to make an example out of the chief who was apparently hospitalized with chest pains after the incident? You be the judge. They claimed the chief may be suicidal but LaCroix’s own lawyer expressed no such concerns after meeting at length with his client. Is it remarkable that the prosecution would want the chief held without bail and that they would seek a dangerousness hearing against him, the result of which could cause him be held without bail for 90 days in a case such as this? The chief could have been released on his promise to come back to court. The prosecutor could have requested a bail warning or sought a reasonable bail in the case that would ensure that Mr. LaCroix would come back to court if he were released. The prosecutor could have asked the court to order the chief to stay away and have no contact with his wife or her female friend during the pendency of the case. The prosecutor could have asked the judge to order other pretrial conditions of release such as electronic or GPS monitoring on the chief or weekly reporting or conditions such as drug or alcohol testing if the abuse of substances was an issue. Yet, the District Attorney’s office decided to take the most drastic approach to the case which resulted in depriving the chief of his freedom even though he is presumed innocent of the crime. Did this action result in punishment before the case has even gone to trial? What are the odds of similar treatment to other ordinary defendants if your were to look up the last few cases involving allegations of assault and battery with the use of dangerous weapons in that court? Did the prosecution seek to hold those defendants pending a dangerousness hearing?

I think it’s safe to say that the chief probably didn’t appreciate a skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney before these charges were leveled against him. He probably now hopes that he has such an attorney in his present defense lawyer, Peter Bella.
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I see it all too often. A person has an unresolved criminal case or probation matter and they forget or fail to come to court or visit with their probation officer when told to. Sometimes people get into trouble at different points in their lives when they abused alcohol or drugs and they accrue criminal matters that they have never fully resolved and these matters remain a nagging distraction and source of fear or unnecessary stress due to the potential for immediate arrest. It does not have to be that way, especially with the help and guidance of an experienced Massachusetts warrant removal lawyer. You do not have to live your life in fear of being arrested when the police run your name through the Massachusetts warrant management system when you get pulled over for a routine traffic ticket or during some incident that puts you in contact with the police. Unfortunately, many people choose to ignore the past and go it alone with the hope that the police and the courts forget about them. It simply does not work this way. The police will go to great lengths to find you even if you have done nothing else wrong. Under Massachusetts law, annual lists of individuals are compiled and distributed to law enforcement.

In an action that police named “Operation Summer Bummer”Norfolk and Plymouth County Sheriff’s Departments teamed up with other local law enforcement agencies to arrest dozens of people with outstanding felony warrants on June 1, 2012. These people will be taken to the nearest court location and will stand before a judge to explain why they have not come to court to answer on their individual case. The judge will hear from the prosecutor and the probation department to get their input as to whether or not the person should be held in custody on bail or in custody without bail pending the adjudication of their case. With the right criminal defense lawyer, an effective argument can be made to convince a judge to release a client on his or her own personal recognizance or promise to come back to court, especially when the client comes to court with a lawyer on his or her own and not in the back of a police car. This is why it is extremely important to hire a skilled Boston, Massachusetts warrant/default removal attorney before the police start looking for you. You don’t want to be walking on the street on a sunny Friday afternoon to be stopped by the police for some reason and let them find out that you have an old default warrant. Under this example, they are legally obligated to arrest you on the spot and hold you until the court opens on Monday.
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If you have an outstanding arrest or default warrant from any court in Massachusetts you are likely dealing with unwarranted stress and anxiety regarding possible detention by the police in addition to feelings of uncertainly about how the judge will ultimately respond to your absence from court. You probably also continue to worry needlessly about the underlying criminal case and how that matter will be resolved in court. By contacting an experienced Massachusetts arrest warrant criminal defense lawyer today, you can begin to immediately ease the tension you now feel and end the habit of looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life.

If you have an outstanding Massachusetts arrest warrant and the police stop you for any reason, even a traffic ticket, they will look your name up in their computer system to check you for warrants. Once they obtain this information they will arrest you and detain you until you can be brought before the nearest court. Also, if you are arrested while in another jurisdiction or state, the authorities there can hold you in their jail as a fugitive from justice until the authorities in Massachusetts determine whether or not to dismiss the warrant or extradite you back to Massachusetts to stand trial. Indeed, the courts have been reluctant to release individuals wanted for alleged crimes in another state. Unfortunately, the extradition process can be sloppy and time consuming and defendants are often subjected to lengthy detention while the two different jurisdictions attempt to coordinate the transfer of an individual back to the demanding state. Consequently, defendants often end up being punished more than they would have been if they simply appeared in court with a lawyer to remove the default and resolve the underlying criminal matter.

Old court defaults or arrest warrants can also cause you problems in other ways. If you have an old arrest warrant, the Registry of Motor Vehicles in your home state can prevent you from either obtaining or renewing your driver’s license due an arrest warrant still outstanding in Massachusetts. It is much more effective to make arrangements to walk into court with an experienced private attorney to remove an arrest or default warrant rather than having the police bring you in Monday morning after a Friday night arrest and detention wearing the same clothes.
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On September 7, 2011 an 82-year-old man allegedly shot and wounded a man and a woman from the second floor window of his home in Revere, Massachusetts. The elderly man was subsequently arraigned on serious criminal charges of assault with intent to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. However, despite the nature of the charges filed by police and the fact that he will be prosecuted, the judge released the man on personal recognizance (his promise to appear in court on all future dates). The incident was reported in the Boston Globe.

The facts of the case as alleged in the Revere police report suggest that the pair came to the defendant’s home earlier in an attempt to get in the home and that the defendant had called the police to report the incident. A window was allegedly broken during the incident by the woman. Presently, officials are still trying to determine if they will file charges against the pair under the circumstances. So how does the man get released just on his promise to appear back in court on such serious charges, especially where he allegedly said to the police that “he screwed up and shot them”? What does the law say about the use of deadly force under such circumstances?

Under M.G.L. c. 278 s. 8A, when someone is shot or killed by an occupant of a dwelling it is a defense that the occupant was in his home at the time of the offense and that he acted in the reasonable belief that the person(s) were about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon him or another person lawfully in the home, and that he used reasonable means to defend himself or the other person lawfully in the home. This is known as the “Castle Doctrine.” Under the law there is no duty on the occupant to retreat from such person(s) unlawfully in the dwelling. Although there are many other considerations under the bail statute in Massachusetts for a judge to consider in releasing a person accused of crime, I believe that the law of self-defense in the home was a controlling factor in the judge’s decision to release him simply on his promise to appear back in court when scheduled.
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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).
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