Massachusetts law about criminal law and procedure

Laws, cases, and web sources on criminal law and procedure law.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

Massachusetts criminal laws are primarily in MGL chapters 263-274:

A crime punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison is a felony. All other crimes are misdemeanors.

Massachusetts criminal procedure laws are primarily in MGL chapters 275-280:

  • MGL c. 275 Proceedings to prevent crimes
  • MGL c. 276 Search warrants, rewards, fugitives from justice, arrest, examination, commitment and bail, probation officers and Board of Probation
  • MGL c. 276A District Court pretrial diversion of selected offenders
  • MGL c. 276B Restorative justice
  • MGL c. 277 Indictments and proceedings before trial
  • MGL c. 277B Statewide grand jury (repealed effective December 31, 2026)
  • MGL c. 278 Trials and proceedings before judgment
  • MGL c. 278A Post conviction access to forensic and scientific analysis
  • MGL c. 279 Judgment and execution
  • MGL c. 280 Fines and forfeitures

Glossary of court terms

Glossary of court terms
From the Mass. Trial Court's "Handbook of legal terms for judicial branch personnel", and adapted for the web by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Court rules and standards

Forms

Selected cases

Jury instructions

Web sources

Appeals Court frequent appellate process questions, Mass. Appeals Court.
Provides essential information in a question and answer format on how to file an appeal in both civil and criminal cases. Covers everything from the notice of appeal to how long to expect to wait for a decision. Great resource!

The bail process, Mass. Court System.
Explains the law and process of bail in Massachusetts.

District Court complaint manual, Mass. District Court.
Outlines offense codes, charging language, and sentence range for more than 5,000 offenses described in the General Laws, regulations, and municipal laws.

Featured practice tips from the Superior Court bench, MCLE.
A "series of short 10-minute video briefings offering practical and sage advice from more than forty active and alumni members of the Massachusetts Superior Court."

Frequently asked questions about inquests, Mass. Court System.
Explains how a death investigation works.

Massachusetts criminal practice, 4th ed., by Blumenson, Eric D.
Full-text available via Suffolk University Law School. C 2012.

Massachusetts Department of Correction
Find an inmate or a prison, and many other actions and services.

Massachusetts high risk sex offenders
Search for sex offenders, and other actions and services.

Master crime list, Mass. Sentencing Commission.
Lists crimes by MGL reference, and offense title. Describes whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor, and provides the sentence range.

Print sources

Criminal defense motions, 5th ed. (Mass. Practice v. 42), West, 2019 with supplement. 

Criminal law, 3rd ed. (Mass. Practice v. 32) West, 2001 with supplement.

Criminal law : a desk reference by Paul Bergman, Nolo, 2021. (eBook available here with library card).

The criminal law handbook : know your rights, survive the system by Paul Bergman, Nolo, 2022. (2024 eBook available here with library card).

Do no wrong: ethics for prosecutors and defenders, American Bar Association, 2009.

Massachusetts criminal law: a District Court prosecutor's guide, by Richard G. Stearns, loose-leaf.

Massachusetts proof of cases, Volume 2 – Criminal and evidence, West, annual editions.

Contact for Massachusetts law about criminal law and procedure

Last updated: February 14, 2024

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