An Arraignment hearing in Massachusetts is your first appearance before a judge, at which time you are formally charged with a crime. At the hearing you and your attorney, if you have one, will receive copies of the formal charges against you, the Indictment or Complaint, and any police reports. The charge is read aloud in the courtroom, and a plea entered on your behalf. Usually, the Clerk-Magistrate will automatically enter a “not guilty” plea on your behalf.

During the Arraignment, if you don’t already have a lawyer with you, the judge will also ask you if you intend to hire a lawyer, or wish to have a public defender assigned to you. A lawyer will be appointed if you request one and if you qualify financially.

At the Arraignment, a prosecutor can ask for cash bail or request that certain other conditions be imposed on you, even if bail was set and posted while you were at the police station.  Those conditions could include things like an order to say away from the alleged victim in your case or a certain address, or that you do drug testing while the case is pending, or that you abstain from alcohol.

If the prosecutor asks for a higher bail amount than you have already posted, or for specific conditions of release, a Bail Hearing is held immediately. In certain situations, if the case involves allegations of violence or a repeat drunk driving offense, for example, the prosecutor can ask the judge to hold you for a Dangerousness Hearing. If the Judge allows it, that hearing must be held within 7 days, and you will be held in custody until then.

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