A criminal citation is something that you may receive in the mail in Massachusetts. It is a slip of paper titled Massachusetts Uniform Citation, with details about the violation that you allegedly committed. If the box labeled “Criminal Application” at the top of the citation is checked, this is cause for concern. It is important to respond to this type of citation right away, as it means that you are facing a criminal accusation.
A criminal citation does not mean that you are under arrest or there is a warrant out that allows a police officer to arrest you on sight. It does mean, however, that you are being charged with a criminal offense. Mailed criminal citations are used for multiple misdemeanor crimes in Massachusetts, including operating under the influence, property crimes and assault.
Do not discard the criminal citation or ignore it. You are responsible for responding to the citation in the proper manner within four days of the date of the violation. Here’s what to do:
Once the court receives your completed form, you will wait for a response. You should receive a letter in the mail notifying you of what comes next shortly.
After responding to a criminal citation, you will receive a notice in the mail giving you the date of your court hearing. The initial hearing is known as a Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing. At this hearing, you will have the chance to argue why a criminal complaint should not be issued against you. The prosecuting officer will also present evidence as to why there are grounds for a charge. You may have a Woburn criminal defense attorney present for the hearing, although it is not required. If the magistrate believes there is enough evidence, your case will move forward and become a criminal charge. Otherwise, the case will be dismissed.
If you fail to respond to a criminal citation by the deadline, you will automatically be charged with a crime. The next notice that you receive in the mail will be your notice to appear at an arraignment hearing to hear your criminal charges. If you don’t show up at the arraignment, a warrant will be issued for your arrest in Massachusetts.
Hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent you during the Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing can help you prevent your case from going any further. There is a good chance that your attorney can prevent a criminal charge from being issued against you by arguing that there is not enough evidence of a crime to proceed with a case. If a complaint does get issued, your attorney can represent you during follow-up hearings and the rest of your criminal case. With a lawyer by your side, you are much more likely to avoid criminal charges.