First Time & Minor Criminal Offenders

Concord District Court, © Virginia Lee

Concord District Court, © Virginia Lee

Even normal people get arrested

Although I am an experienced criminal defense lawyer and have handled a wide range of criminal cases including felonies and misdemeanors, my current interest is with representing first time offenders, and offenders committing minor offenses.  I am particularly interested in crimes committed by people who see themselves as unlikely “criminals,” but have somehow become involved with the criminal justice system. It could be that you never thought about getting caught when you stole something from a store, or that you didn’t realize that any act of violence within a relationship, whether it be a heterosexual or gay relationship, is likely to be considered a criminal offense. Basically, you thought of yourself as an everyday person, but now you have been arrested for the first time, are hoping to be bailed out, or you are expecting to receive a notice from the court informing you of a clerk’s hearing or an arraignment.

Contact a criminal defense attorney immediately

Whenever you become involved with the police or the courts, it is important to call an attorney immediately.  It is not in your interest to wait to retain an attorney, nor is it in your interest to attend a hearing without an attorney, as there is a good chance you will do more harm than good.

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Prior to your hearing

There is a lot that can be accomplished by your attorney prior to any hearing date.  You need to give your attorney time to investigate your case, and reach out to police officers and victims to see if they will agree to dismiss or reduce the charges.  An attorney may be able to resolve your case at a clerk magistrate hearing, but there is a lot that your attorney will want to do before the hearing in order to accomplish the best possible outcome for you.  Moreover, in instances where the clerk’s office issues complaints without a clerk’s hearing, and if you are a first offender and are indeed sorry for what you have done, in some instances an attorney may be able to request that you avoid being arraigned at all. 

Avoid having a criminal record

One of the primary goals of lawyers representing first time offenders is to prevent them from acquiring a record which will show up in future background checks, and has numerous consequences as you move through life.  A criminal record is also of great concern to those persons who are not American citizens, and whose visas and re-entry rights may be affected.  At the clerk’s hearing your attorney will make every effort to have your case dismissed immediately.  Your case may also be dismissed several months later if you stay out of trouble, pursuant to the clerk’s granting of a continuance.

I represent many Chinese clients and Chinese students, who are looking for a Chinese lawyer to steer them through the system.

Diversion and restorative justice

Diversion programs are designed to keep you from having a criminal record.  I am particularly interested in the restorative justice model, which seeks to repair the harm done by a criminal offender.  Whether you are lucky enough to take part in a formal program, or work with your attorney to design your own program, you must accept responsibility for your actions and take steps to repair the harm that you have done. Some examples of steps you could take involve apologizing to the victim and the community, returning stolen money, and performing community service.  Some courts offer diversion programs, but it will depend on your level of commitment and whether those programs are available.  In addition, you may benefit from mental health counseling, so that you better understand the causes of your behavior that brought you into the criminal system. 

Resources

     Massachusetts District Courts

     Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries – Criminal Law

Restorative justice

     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restorative_justice

     http://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/progTypesRestorative.aspx

     http://www.nccdglobal.org/what-we-do/restorative-justice-project 

District Courts

Waltham District Court;  Boston Municipal Court in: Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, West Roxbury (in Jamaica Plain), and Roxbury;  Cambridge District Court (in Woburn); Malden District Court; Concord District  Court;  Brookline District Court; Framingham District Court.