The Dangerousness Statute, or “58A”.
The Massachusetts Dangerousness statute, ch. 276 sec. 58A, defines certain charges and criteria under which a defendant can be held in jail without the possibility of being bailed out for one hundred and twenty days. This statue is commonly invoked in seriously violent cases, and often in cases of domestic violence.
For example, where a defendant is charged with using a firearm during a crime it is likely that the Commonwealth would seek to have that person held without bail. In cases of domestic assault and battery, changes in the law have made clear that the legislature expects defendants to be held without bail on a much more frequent basis.
The Dangerousness Hearing.
A dangerousness hearing requires the Commonwealth to prove that the charges fall under the statute authorizing the defendant’s detention, and that no conditions can be imposed by the court that would adequately protect the public safety. Even before the Commonwealth has to prove that much, the defendant can be held for three days without any proof whatsoever. Dangerousness hearings are very serious matters and require substantial preparation in a small amount of time.
In some cases, a dangerousness hearing offers a first opportunity to observe and cross-examine the prosecutions’ witnesses. However, there are reasons in some cases why it is not wise to have live witnesses testify at the hearing. An experienced defense lawyer must carefully evaluate a case individually to determine how to handle a dangerousness hearing.