Defendant: The person charged with a crime.
Pro se defendant: A person charged with a crime who represents himself or herself and does not have a lawyer.
Defense attorney: The defense attorney represents the defendant accused of a crime.
Prosecutor: The prosecutor represents the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and works for the District Attorney. Each county in the Commonwealth elects one District Attorney, who then employs assistant district attorneys (prosecutors) to represent the office in the trial courts. You can find a directory of District Attorneys at the District Attorneys Association.
Court officer: A man or woman in a uniform similar to that of a police officer, wearing a white shirt, who is charged with keeping order in the court. A court officer may also guide you to the correct location in the courtroom or the court building.
Clerk: A clerk will sit in the courtroom during the court session to keep the records of the proceedings that occur that day. Clerk-magistrates in the district court also serve as judicial hearing officers on procedural criminal matters such as show cause hearings.
Judge: The judge presides over the hearing to make sure that the rules and procedures are followed to ensure that justice is done. The judge has the final decision-making authority for imposing bail and sentences. If there is no jury at a trial, the judge will perform the jury’s functions: weighing the facts and deciding guilt or innocence.
Probation officer: A probation officer is usually in the courtroom, except when a trial is going on. The probation department is part of the trial court and will, among other duties, track a defendant's compliance with court orders and report that information to the judge.
Court reporter: A court reporter may be in the superior court and records everything that is said in the courtroom. In district court the proceedings are tape-recorded. Copies of the recorder's notes (transcript) or the tape recording usually take time to produce. For more information, see Time Standards for Completion of Transcripts in Civil and Criminal Cases .
Part 2: Arraignment or First Appearance in Court
- Can court staff help me?
- What should I wear to court?
- Where should I go when I arrive at the court building?
- What should I do when I enter the arraignment courtroom?
- What conduct is expected in the courtroom?
- Who are the people in the courtroom?
- What will happen at my arraignment?
- What is bail (or bond)?
- When can I first talk to my court appointed lawyer?
- Can I dispose of my case at arraignment?
- What happens when I talk to the prosecutor (during a break in my court appearance) about resolving my case?
- Can my case be continued?
- What could my punishment be?
- What happens if I am charged with a crime but I am not a United States citizen?
- What is the difference between civil infractions, misdemeanors and felonies?
- What happens if my case is not resolved at arraignment?
- What should I do before I leave court?
- Part 3: Pre-Trial, Trial and Verdict