Probable Cause Hearings and Grand Jury Indictments

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Criminal Defense
  4.  » Probable Cause Hearings and Grand Jury Indictments

Westwood / Dedham, Massachusetts, Probable Cause Hearings Attorney

In certain instances, such as when the district court has no jurisdiction over a specific crime or in cases of habitual or egregious offenders, the prosecution may seek to remove the case to the superior court. This is because the range of sentencing is far greater than the district court maximum of 2-1/2 years. A district court sentence furthermore requires that you be incarcerated in a house of correction, whereas a superior court conviction carries a state prison sentence.

Contact a Dedham/Westwood lawyer at the Law Office of Philip L. Arnel.

The prosecution may accomplish its means by way of either a probable cause hearing in the district court or direct indictment by a grand jury. The probable cause hearing occurs before an indictment and has a twofold purpose: to test the adequacy of the prosecution’s case for binding over and to discover its strengths and weaknesses.

You should not present evidence or testify at a probable cause hearing unless there is a sound tactical reason that overcomes the inadvisability of disclosing the defense case at this stage.

The grand jury is responsible for deciding whether there is sufficient evidence to indict a criminal defendant. The actual indictment is the formal written accusation of a crime presented to a court for prosecution against the accused person.

You should immediately consult with an attorney if you become aware that you are the target of a grand jury indictment. The discussion should include the adjudicatory process, including ramifications of your testifying before the grand jury since your testimony will be under oath and such grand jury testimony may be used against you in future proceedings.

Your lawyer may be present only to advise you during your testimony, but may not speak or be heard by the grand jury. You do not have to testify, because there is a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not be used as a witness against oneself.

Remember, an indictment is not a conviction, but rather a presumably defensible charge against you that falls within the jurisdiction of the superior court.

How Can An Experienced Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

  • Seek to obtain a probable cause hearing and avoid a direct indictment, unless good reasons exist for a different strategy
  • Ensure scheduling of the probable cause hearing so as not to increase the likelihood of direct indictment
  • Prepare for the probable cause hearing by knowing the elements of all charges and investigating as fully as possible the facts underlying the charges
  • Challenge the prosecution’s showing of probable cause on each essential or aggravating element
  • Take advantage of the potential for discovery offered by a probable cause hearing by filing appropriate motions, using compulsory process and sequestering witnesses
  • Request a copy of the tape recording of the probable cause hearing for possible use as impeachment at the trial and for trial preparation
  • Advocate at the probable cause hearing, where appropriate, that the court retain jurisdiction over a lesser-included offense
  • Prevent your indictment at the grand jury and avoid unnecessary future legal fees in defending a criminal case
  • Take advantage of the potential for discovery by previewing the prosecution’s case at the grand jury
  • Review the allegations and your proposed grand jury testimony and prepare you to testify, if you decide to testify
  • Advise you during your grand jury testimony
  • Assess the need to present exculpatory witnesses and evidence at the grand jury
  • File motions to quash any indictments on the following grounds:
  • Improper prosecutorial conduct, such as bullying jurors, misstatements of law and withholding exculpatory evidence
  • Procedural irregularities, improper juror qualifications, reconvening with different grand jurors
  • Failure to give you adequate and correct notice

Protect your liberty and freedom interests. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.