I received a MA criminal complaint in the mail. What should I do?
If you receive a criminal complaint and summons in the mail, do not ignore it.
When the government decides to charge an individual with committing a crime, it can proceed in one of two ways: if the individual is arrested by the police, he will be brought to court as soon as possible and arraigned. At the courthouse, the individual will be handed a criminal complaint, which begins the formal criminal justice process. The second option is to send an individual a criminal complaint and summons in the mail. In this scenario, the individual is not arrested. Rather, the individual is sent the charging documents in the mail and is ordered to show up at court on their own to begin the criminal process. Many people make the mistake of thinking the charges will go away if they don’t show up at court. This is simply not true. In fact, it will only make things worse.
A criminal complaint is a court document that formally charges you with committing a crime. It specifies the law that you have allegedly violated, and gives a short description of the basis for your charge. It will also specify the time, date, and location of the conduct that led to the charge.
Included with the criminal complaint will be a summons. A summons is a court order to appear at a specific courthouse, and at a specific date and time. If you ignore the order and do not appear, a judge will issue a warrant for your arrest, and you will have a “default” on your criminal record. A default is an entry on your record that shows that you ignored a court order. This has serious implications. It will affect the amount the judge sets for your bail on your criminal charge, and will affect bail amounts in any future cases you become involved in. It is thus extremely important to avoid having a default on your record. It is also crucial to appear at the time specified in the summons. Many judges will issue a default simply for showing up late, or appearing at the wrong courthouse. Once the arrest warrant is issued, you can be arrested at any time and place. This means that if you are pulled over for speeding or any other traffic violation, the officer will run your license and the arrest warrant will show up. The officer will then arrest you and bring you to the police station. For all of these reasons, you should respond to the summons and appear in court at the day and time specified.
When you appear in court, you will go before a judge and you will be arraigned for the charge specified in the complaint. This signifies the beginning of the formal criminal process. When you arrive at the courthouse, you should go to the clerk’s office to see what courtroom you need to go to. Your name will be called by the courtroom clerk, and you will need to stand up before the judge and enter a plea (guilty or not guilty) on the charge. If you plead not guilty, the judge will then give you a second date at which you need to appear for a pre-trial hearing.
It is highly advisable to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as you receive a criminal complaint in the mail. Your attorney can explain the documents to you, appear with you at court, help you enter your plea, and, most importantly, begin the process of preparing your defense. In many cases, a defense attorney can speak with a prosecutor at arraignment and discuss dismissing or reducing the charges. Moreover, your attorney can begin investigating the conduct in the complaint that led to the charges. With this information, your attorney can prepare discovery and evidentiary motions that will expedite the resolution of your case.
If you have received a criminal complaint in the mail, contact the expert criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Altman & Altman immediately. Our experienced Massachusetts criminal defense trial lawyers can walk you through the process of responding to the complaint, and prepare your defense. For over 40 years, Altman & Altman has been defending clients in courts throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts against all forms of state and federal criminal charges. We are zealous advocates who are committed to providing the best defense possible for all of our clients.
We provide all clients with a free and confidential case consultation to discuss the specifics of their case and to fully explain their legal rights and options. With offices in downtown Boston and in Cambridge, we are easily accessible to clients throughout Greater Boston. Call us today so we can provide the assistance you need to resolve your case.