Criminal Legal Process

The criminal legal process can unexpectedly affect otherwise law abiding citizens for a number of reasons. Frequently these include motor vehicle offense, including accusations of drunk driving, accusations of assault and battery, violating a restraining order, or accusations of violations of drug laws.

The vast majority of criminal cases brought in Massachusetts are brought in the District Court system. The Massachusetts District Courts have jurisdiction over most crimes, and can generally sentence defendants only up to two and a half years in jail on each charge. More serious crimes are handled in the Superior Court, and the following information does not always apply.
If you find yourself accused of a crime, it is imperative to talk to a lawyer immediately, before talking to police. Do not take legal advice from the police.

We present an overview of Massachusetts State District Court criminal process. It then concludes with information applicable in criminal cases to general cases.

The titles of each section in the Criminal Legal Process

  • The Institution of the Criminal Process – Arrest or Summons
  • Procedures in Court
  • Plea Bargaining

This is intended as an overview only. An accused should always consult with a lawyer.


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