Criminal Defense: Defending the Accused in State Court

Clients who find themselves involved in criminal matters in the Massachusetts state court criminal system can rely on Fitch Law Partners LLP for effective representation. Being involved in a criminal case, as the defendant or the victim, can be confusing and frightening. A criminal conviction — or even a charge — can impact one's life in countless ways, including one's freedom, employment, standing in educational institutions, and family. It is important for defendants, victims and witnesses to be well-informed throughout the process.

The lead partners in our state court criminal defense practice are Peter E. Ball and Heather Baer. View their individual profiles for more information about them.

Our criminal defense attorneys include former prosecutors who have also had extensive experience representing clients in state-court criminal cases.

Our clients may come in contact with the state-court criminal justice system in a variety of ways.

Clerk-Magistrate Hearings

In Massachusetts, criminal complaints for misdemeanors or felonies may be issued when a police department applies for a criminal complaint by making a showing to a clerk-magistrate that there is probable cause to conclude that the potential defendant committed a crime. That showing is often made by producing a police report to the clerk-magistrate. If the clerk-magistrate reviewing the report concludes that the report supports a finding of probable cause, he or she will issue the criminal complaint.

Criminal complaints for misdemeanors may also issue after a hearing before a clerk-magistrate on an application for a criminal complaint filed by a police department or a member of the public. The potential defendant receives notice from the court that the hearing (often called a "show-cause hearing") will be held and he or she has a right to attend the hearing and to be heard as to whether the complaint should issue. At the hearing, which is held before a clerk-magistrate rather than a judge, the alleged victim or the police department is asked to provide the clerk-magistrate with testimony and/or documentary or other evidence in support of the claim that there is probable cause to conclude that the potential defendant committed a crime. The defendant is entitled to provide evidence in his or her defense. If the clerk-magistrate concludes that probable cause exists, s/he may issue a criminal complaint.

For a potential defendant, this stage represents a key opportunity to avoid the issuance of a criminal complaint against him or her or to minimize charges made in any complaint that does issue. However, it is critical that parties who expect to be involved in such proceedings consult counsel before attending or testifying at a hearing; a witness's or potential defendant's conduct at that hearing can have significant consequences. Clerk-magistrate hearings may be recorded and statements made by a party (a victim, potential defendant or witness) may be used against them in subsequent proceedings. Fitch's lawyers have effectively represented clients at clerk-magistrate hearings in many Massachusetts courts.

After a Complaint has Issued: From Arraignment Through Trial

After a criminal complaint has issued, either in a Superior or District Court, the defendant is arraigned (essentially, advised of the charges) and the prosecution may ask for bail. Fitch's lawyers have years of experience arguing bail in many different Massachusetts courts. What transpires at a bail hearing can make the difference between freedom or being held in jail pending the resolution of the charges. In one recent case, Fitch lawyers were successful at securing a reduction in a client's bail from $100,000 to $7,500.

After arraignment, we represent our clients vigorously at all stages of the proceedings. In many cases, Fitch's lawyers have been able to persuade the district attorneys' office to dismiss the charges against our client. In those cases where dismissal was not an option, we have negotiated resolutions that have minimized the harm that a conviction may cause to our clients' lives. Should it prove to be in our client's best interest to take the case to trial, our lawyers have decades of trial experience in district and superior courts throughout Massachusetts.

Witnesses and Victims

Fitch's lawyers have also assisted individual and corporate victims, as well as witnesses who find themselves involved with a criminal prosecution. We have guided them through the process while ensuring that their interests are protected. Many clients find this type of representation valuable, especially when - as is often the case these days - prosecutors are tied up in court for hours at a time and are frequently handling many cases simultaneously. On behalf of one recent client, we worked with the local police department and district attorney's office to ensure that they had sufficient evidence to levy charges against and prosecute the wrongdoer. We have also represented witnesses who were interviewed by police officers or prosecutors and others who felt confused or concerned by the process or who felt more comfortable having an advocate in dealing with the prosecutor's office.

Harassment Prevention Orders

While harassment prevention orders and abuse prevention (restraining) orders are often handled in the same courtrooms as criminal matters, they are actually civil in nature. Fitch's lawyers have assisted many clients in obtaining or defending against abuse prevention (restraining) orders or harassment prevention orders. Such proceedings may range from completing the paperwork to obtaining the initial orders to representing our clients in evidentiary hearings before the court.

Contact: Heather Baer | Peter Ball

See the success Fitch has had with criminal cases