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The suspect is not qualified as a lawyer at the secretary's hearing at Mass.But having a lawyer makes a big difference

New court data confirm that many lawyers have long been suspicious. Hiring a lawyer can greatly increase your chances of avoiding criminal accusations in Massachusetts.

According to statistics, defendants with lawyers were 42% more likely to avoid being charged with crime at a judge’s hearing in a closed room deciding whether to file a criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.

However, unlike most other criminal proceedings, the suspect is not qualified as a lawyer appointed to court at the secretary’s hearing.

Attorney Peter Elikann, a former chairman of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Council, said it was unfair to those who couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer on their own.

“I don’t think the clerk will get in the way to treat people better just because they have a lawyer,” Elican said. “But lawyers can often present more experience to their side. They are not emotionally involved. They are nervous when they stand in front of the clerk. Is not.”

(Source: Massachusetts Court)

David Rothman, director of the Boston University Criminal Law Clinical Program, thought the situation was unfair, but said it was expensive and unlikely to change soon.

“It’s not the true slogan of a winning campaign for politicians to go to voters and say,’Rather than hiring more teachers or fixing potholes, those accused of crime. Let’s allocate more taxes to lawyers for this. Roads, “Rosman said.

Court data for a hearing in 2020 sheds new light on the ambiguity of Massachusetts’ criminal justice system. The clerk holds thousands of hearings annually. However, most hearings are closed. And unless the clerk decides to issue a fee, the document will not normally be published. Therefore, the numbers provide a window on how the process works.

Newly released figures show that white defendants are slightly more likely to avoid prosecution than people of color. And women were much more likely to avoid prosecution than men. Defendants are less likely to be prosecuted if they are under the age of 20 or over the age of 70.

In addition, court data show that the probabilities of being billed vary significantly from county to county. For example, in Franklin County, a clerk charged seven out of ten hearings. However, in counties that cover Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (Dukes), only three out of ten hearings lead to criminal accusations. The court did not disclose data from individual courthouses or secretaries.

Many secretaries and lawyers say that hearings provide a way for courts to eliminate relatively minor issues or to seek informal solutions before a dispute becomes a public criminal case. I am saying. They also offer the opportunity to protect themselves before being prosecuted by the suspect, but not everyone takes advantage of that opportunity.

Overall, the data show that clerk indicted about half of the approximately 44,000 cases heard in 2020. However, when the suspect skipped the hearing in 2020, the clerk charged in almost 91% of the time, compared to just 36% when the suspect appeared.


WBUR’s Todd Wallack contributed to this report.