The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has 63 district courts and 20 superior courts that resolve more than 235,000 criminal cases each year. The fact that a person is charged with an offense does not mean that he/she committed the crime. Guilt must be determined by a judge or jury. The most serious cases, the ones that often result in a prison sentence of more than two and a half years are usually heard in superior court and the less serious cases are usually heard in district court.
The information in this website is intended to be helpful but cannot replace advice from an attorney. A criminal conviction can result in imprisonment as well as other serious consequences. A few examples of other consequences include the risk of deportation if you not a United States citizen, the loss of public housing benefits, and the inability to obtain a student loan. Included in this website are a variety of links to legal help including assistance that is provided free of charge.
Part 1: Before Arraignment
- What happens if I am arrested?
- What are my rights?
- Can I be released after I am booked at the police station?
- What happens if I receive a complaint and notice of criminal charges and a date to appear in court in the mail (and I am not arrested)?
- What is a show cause hearing?
- What is the difference between criminal charges in superior court and criminal charges in district court?
- What is an arraignment date?
- What should I do before I go to court?
- Part 2: Arraignment or First Appearance in Court
Part 3: Pre-Trial, Trial and Verdict
- What is a pre-trial conference date?
- What occurs at a pre-trial conference?
- How soon must a trial take place?
- How are cases decided at a trial?
- What happens at trial?
- What is a verdict?
- Can I appeal a guilty verdict?
- Can I appeal from a guilty plea?
- What happens if I do not go to court?
- What should I do if I miss a probation appointment?
- How can I get help if I am a victim of a crime?
- Where can I get help if I am a criminal defendant?
- More information on the criminal process
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