Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney Before Arraignment if Possible
When someone is charged with a crime, the first court appearance is usually called the Arraignment. The person is formally charged, and almost always enters a plea of “Not Guilty.” For some low level charges, that’s it, and you walk out of the courthouse until the next date. However, for any serious criminal charges, there is usually another part: the bail argument.
There are several variations of the bail argument, such as a warrant surrender, a dangerousness hearing (aka “58A”), a probation violation or probation surrender hearing, for example. Aside from the dangerousness hearing, they’re all structured similarly. First, the prosecutor (or probation officer) asks the judge to set cash bail, or to hold you without bail, and then he or she makes an argument as to why their request is appropriate and necessary under the circumstances.
After the prosecutor makes his or her pitch, then it’s the defense attorney’s turn. I’ve had an incredible number of successful bail arguments, where clients have walked out of the courthouse in the face of extremely high bail requests from prosecutors, with some of the worst criminal charges on their records.
To better understand the process, click here for a transcript from an actual bail hearing that I handled a few years ago. The name and identifying information for my client is redacted to protect his privacy.
The background: I was hired the day before the hearing. My client’s mother called me up in shock, after her son had been unexpectedly arrested and was being held with a $200,000 cash bail. She didn’t know much about the charges, so I didn’t know what I would be walking into, exactly. But I gathered as much information as I could about my soon-to-be-client, and started preparing a bail argument in my mind.
The next morning, I arrived at the courthouse, only to find that a public defender had already been assigned for the hearing. To my client’s delight, I introduced myself and took over upon arrival. But before taking over the reigns, I had the public defender brief me on his assessment. He reported to me that it would be a miracle to persuade the judge to set a bail any lower than $100,000, and even that would have no real effect, because there was no way the client would be able to post that type of bail.
Nonetheless, I got to know my client as best as I could that morning. I also introduced myself to the prosecutor, hoping that by giving her some background on my client, it would help soften – or lower – her requested bail. It didn’t. She asked the judge to set bail at $200,000, as had already been set at the police station. After all, she countered, my client had warrants out of three different states, and had built up a criminal record around the country.
I proceeded to give one of the best bail arguments I had ever delivered. The judge agreed, and set bail at $5,000. My client’s family posted the bail, allowing him to resolve the other cases, and then we eventually got the case in Massachusetts dismissed as well.
Of course, not every case is like the one just described, and no attorney can guarantee a specific result. And sometimes people hire me and I end up being like an insurance policy, because a bail is not requested. But you never know. So if you have an arraignment, a warrant, or a probation violation coming up, it’s better to be prepared with an experienced criminal defense attorney, just in case. Because you can’t put a price on your freedom.
If you’re facing criminal charges in Boston or anywhere in Massachusetts, call us today at (781) 797-0555.