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*CRIMINAL LAW INFORMATION

Minor traffic offense

Matters in District Court

Matters in Juvenile Court

Jury Duty


Minor traffic offense

What is considered a minor traffic violation, and what are the consequences?
A minor traffic offense is one that involves being stopped and cited by a police officer for only "civil" motor vehicle infractions, one that subjects you to a fine and not a criminal charge. The consequence is usually the imposition of a monetary fine if you admit to or are found responsible for the offense. However, the offense could lead to an increase in your insurance premium and/or a suspension or revocation of your driver's license.
 
What are my rights if I am stopped by the police?
If you are being stopped by the police in your car, pull over to a safe place, turn off the car, stay in the car and put your hands on the steering wheel where they can be seen. Make sure your license, registration and insurance information is always handy. 

With the exception of providing the officer with your name, address and date of birth (all of which can be provided to the officer simply by handing over your driver's license), you have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer any other questions the officer may ask of you. Simply say -- politely -- that you choose to remain silent. If the officer asks for your consent to search the car, you have the right to say no. Your refusing to speak or consent to a search cannot be used against you.

Matters in District Court

What should I do after a drunk driving arrest?
If you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, you should know that you have the right to remain silent, to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests and to refuse the breathalyzer test. After a drunk driving arrest, you should contact an attorney, and if you cannot afford an attorney, you should know that one will be appointed to you in court at arraignment (your first court appearance). 

What happens if I refuse or fail a breathalyzer test?
If you refuse or fail a breathalyzer test you could lose your driving privileges for a period of time, the length of which depends upon whether you have any prior criminal convictions and what those convictions are. In Massachusetts, if you refuse to take the breathalyzer test, that refusal cannot be used against you in court to prove that you were under the influence. However, if you fail the breathalyzer, that will be used against you in court.
 
What happens at a criminal trial?
At a criminal trial, the defendant is presumed to be innocent and the prosecutor has to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by putting witnesses on the stand and/or introducing exhibits to the court. A defendant can choose to have either a judge or jury decide if the prosecution has met its burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant does not have to introduce any evidence to prove his or her innocence, and the defendant has an absolute right not to testify, but the defendant can also choose to put on evidence on his or her behalf. At a jury trial, the jurors must reach a unanimous verdict (whether it be guilty or not guilty).

Matters in Juvenile Court

Are juvenile cases and records confidential?
In general, records associated with juvenile proceedings are not considered to be "public" records nor can they be used to disqualify a juvenile from future public employment. However, those records can be used in subsequent criminal proceedings against the same juvenile. They are also available to law enforcement agencies for use in connection with legitimate law enforcement purposes. 
 
At what age can a minor be prosecuted as an adult?
A juvenile can be prosecuted as an adult at age 14 for murder, as well as certain other felony offenses under certain circumstances, such as if the juvenile had been previously committed to the Department of Youth Services. However, in most cases, a person is prosecuted as an adult at age 17.
 
What are the legal rights of parents in Juvenile Court?
The parents of a juvenile have a right to be notified if the juvenile has been arrested and to be present at all court proceedings associated with any juvenile offense.
 
How do I get help if I am a victim of a crime committed by a juvenile?
A victim of an alleged juvenile offense obtains assistance in the same manner as any other victim, through the local police department or through a victim witness advocate associated with the district attorney's office prosecuting the case against the juvenile.

Jury Duty

What are my rights if summoned to jury duty?
A citizen summoned to jury duty in Massachusetts will be required to serve either one day, or if selected for a jury, one trial. After jury service has been satisfied either by serving one day or one trial, the juror is disqualified from serving again for a minimum of three years. If the juror is unable to serve on the dated selected, the juror may request a postponement limited to one year from the date in which the juror was originally scheduled to appear. If the juror is scheduled to appear at a courthouse location that creates a hardship for the juror, the juror may request a transfer to a different courthouse location. During the jury selection process a juror may bring to the judge's attention any reasons that would make service in a particular trial a hardship or that would prevent a juror from faithfully performing his or her obligations.

Does my employer have to pay me when I am on jury duty?
Generally, your employer must pay you your regular wages for the first three days or any part thereof, of your jury service. However, the court may excuse an employer from the duty to pay you for the first three days if the court finds that payment of your wages would impose on your employer an extreme financial hardship. If an employer is excused from paying your wages the court shall award you reasonable compensation to be paid by the state not to exceed $50 per day for the first three days. If you serve on a jury for more than three days, the state will pay you $50 per day after the third day.

Why do some juries have six people and some have twelve?
In the superior court, the jury consists of 12 people and in the district court, the jury consists of six persons. The judge will also select one or more alternate jurors, in case a juror becomes ill or is excused because of an emergency.

*These answers do not constitute legal advice and are written for general information purposes only. Individuals should consult with a lawyer for specific legal advice.




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