FAQs About Dangerousness Hearings
Pre-Trial Criminal Defense Attorneys
A prosecutor in Massachusetts can seek to have a criminal defendant locked up in county jail for up to 90 days before a criminal trial has even started. At the arraignment, the prosecutor will notify the court, the accused and defense counsel that the district attorney’s office will be moving for a dangerousness hearing in an attempt to have the defendant detained in jail prior to the trial.
In addition to the physical dangers and mental and emotional distress, incarceration prior to trial seriously affects the defendant’s ability to help his attorney prepare his case for trial. The defendant plays one of the most important roles in building a defense. The defendant and his attorney spend hours going over the events surrounding the alleged charged. The defendant is able to provide details, witness information and facts that only he knows. This information is crucial in building a defense. Therefore it is important for the defendant to be free to meet with his attorney in his office or do other simple things like visit the crime scene. This cannot be done effectively if the defendant is locked up in jail.
The Defendant’s Benefit of a Dangerousness Hearing
A dangerous hearing also has its benefits. In order to secure pre-trial jail time, the prosecution is required to offer evidence that the defendant presents a danger to another person or the community. This provides a defense attorney a sneak peek or preview of the prosecution’s case. This allows a defense attorney the rare opportunity to assess the prosecution’s case prior to trial. Defense counsel will be able to get a handle on what evidence and witnesses the prosecution might be relying on at the trial that will take place later on. Because the defendant is facing incarceration up to 90 days, a defense attorney is allowed to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. A good defense attorney will take this opportunity to assess the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. Since the rules of evidence don’t to apply to this mini trial the defense counsel is allowed to use tactics and introduce information that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed in a criminal trial in order elicit information from the witness that is harmful to the prosecution’s case. Any information or inconsistencies the defense counsel gets out during the cross-examination can be used at the criminal trial that will be held later on.
When can the District Attorney’s office move for a Dangerousness Hearing?
The prosecution can seek to have the defendant incarcerated in jail prior to trial if:
- The defendant is charged with a felony dealing with the use of force or threat of force against another person;
- If the defendant presents “substantial risk” of committing a felony involving the use of force;
- The defendant has been accused of violating a restraining order;
- The defendant is charged with a drug crime that carries a 3 years sentence if found guilty; or
- The defendant is charged with a motor vehicle offense while having 3 or more convictions for motor vehicle offenses on his record.
When will a Defendant be Incarcerated?
In order to jail the defendant, the judge must find that the prosecution proved, by clear and convincing evidence, that the only way to keep a particular person or the community safe is to lockup the defendant. This is different than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard that is used in criminal trials. The clear and convincing standard requires the prosecution to show that it is substantially more likely than not that the defendant presents this risk to the community.
What are the Possible Outcomes?
At the conclusion of the hearing the judge can order any of the following:
- The defendant be released;
- The defendant be release subject to specific conditions (refrain from alcohol, stay away from certain people or areas, find a job or attend school, relinquish any firearms, stay in Massachusetts);
- That the defendant be incarcerated for 90 days.
Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorneys with Pre-Trial and Trial Law Experience You Can Count On
Throughout his prosecutorial career, Attorney Noonan argued and tried hundreds of criminal cases including:
- Attempted murder
- Armed robbery
- Drug crimes
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI); and
- Cases involving many other serious criminal offenses.
As a criminal defense attorney alone, Gerald J. Noonan has successfully handled more than 340 criminal trials. Attorney Noonan knows the legal strategies and tactics both law enforcement and district attorneys use when trying to get criminal convictions. He has criminal trial experience on both sides of a criminal case, which is invaluable when you are looking for an attorney to represent you.
For a free initial consultation, use our online contact form, or call us at (508) 584-6955.
We Can Help.
No matter where you are located in Massachusetts, our lawyers are just a phone call away. Call us to schedule your free, no-obligation case review and consultation at (508) 584-6955 and you will have taken your first step to find out how best to confront this important matter. You can also click here to use our Free Case Evaluation Form.