Massachusetts District Courts Ramp-up In-Person Sessions As Of July 13 2020

Here’s an update on how the Massachusetts District Courts are adapting to COVID-19:

Q.  Are all of the District Courts open during the COVID-19 crisis?

A:  Yes, all District Courts are open to conduct certain designated business and to conduct hearings in certain designated matters. As of July 13, some proceedings will take place in person. Other business is instead being addressed virtually by telephone, videoconference, email or comparable means. These are called “virtual hearings.”

Q.:  What criminal matters are the District Courts hearing as of July 13 2020

A.:  The District Courts are hearing all criminal matters, with the exception of jury trials, either virtually or in-person. The events being held either in-person or virtually is as follows:

In-person hearings as of July 13 2020:

  • warrant removals;
  • arraignments (for defendants in custody and not in custody) and any proceeding that may arise as a result of the arraignment including bail revocation, dangerousness hearings (G.L. c. 276, § 58A), probation detention hearings, and dispositions of cases;
  • Probable cause hearings where evidence will be submitted;
  • In the discretion of the judge and following a motion, bench trials in certain criminal cases in which defendants are in custody, also evidentiary hearings to suppress when defendants are in custody, and tenders of plea or admissions for defendants also in custody;
  • Probation violation hearings, at the discretion of the judge and following a motion;

Virtual hearings as of July 13:

  • applications for arrest warrants;
  • probation detention hearings of persons already in custody;
  • probation violation hearings of persons, unless a judge orders an in-person hearing;
  • pre-trial criminal matters (for defendants both in custody and not in custody), including tenders of pleas and admissions (unless ordered to be conducted in person by the judge);
  • emergency motions for review or release of defendants in custody;
  • motions for funds for social workers and others necessary to put in place release plans for those who are being held pretrial, those who are civilly committed for substance abuse treatment, and those who are serving a committed sentence;
  • other criminal matters deemed an emergency by a judge or clerk-magistrate, except where the emergency matter cannot be handled virtually because a virtual proceeding is not practicable or would limit persons’ constitutional rights;
  • Court and probation payment due dates have been extended to August 14, 2020. If you still wish to, you can make payments online using the ePay System in the Courts

Some Common Questions:

Q.:  I was arrested and have a hearing date. What now?

A.:  Persons who have been arrested and bailed should appear in court in person on the date& time indicated on the recognizance slip for their arraignment.

Q.:  A family member is held on bail, can he/she get a bail review?

A.:  Yes, if the bail was set in one of the District Courts, bail reviews by Superior Court judges are being scheduled and conducted by video. As a Norfolk County criminal defense lawyer, I’ve handled many of these hearings, for many years.

Q.: How do I post bail?

A.:  Bail may be posted in person in the Clerk’s Office.

Q.:  I have a warrant against me, what should I do?

A.:  You can enter the courthouse to address the warrant in-person.

Q.:  Can I still have my criminal record expunged?

A.:  Expungement Petitions are not being heard by the District Courts during COVID-19. If you have a criminal record and something on it is creating a problem with your housing or job, call the Clerk’s Office where the criminal record that you are seeking to expunge was first created. You can reach the Clerk’s Office by using the general email address or main phone number for more information.

Q.:  My case is scheduled to go to trial. Will it be before a judge or a jury?

A.:  ll jury trials have been suspended until after September 8, 2020.

Q.:  I am on Probation and I need to leave the state due to a family emergency. Can I have my probation conditions changed?

A.:  Possibly. You should contact your probation officer. The Court might be able to allow this administratively without a hearing IF the DA and probation both do not offer any objections. In the event of an objection, a telephone or video conference will be scheduled. Probation offices can be reached by calling the main phone number for the court.  Courthouse telephone information is located on each of the District Court location contact pages.

That’s the current status of operations in the Massachusetts District Court system. For more information, click here to be taken to the Massachusetts Trial Court website.   On August 10, the list of subject matters being handled by the District Courts will be expanded further.

If you have a case before Dedham District court, Wrentham District Court, West Roxbury District Court, Boston Municipal Court, Stoughton District Court, Attleboro District Court, Plymouth District Court, Brookline District Court or Hingham District Court, Barnstable District Court or Orleans District Court call us at Ph. (781) 320-0062 or contact us for a free consultation.

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