Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(a)(2) allows a defendant who has been summonsed for arraignment and who has retained a lawyer to be excused from appearing at his or her arraignment. To avail oneself of this rule the attorney must enter an appearance prior to the return date and state in that appearance that this matter has been discussed with the defendant and that the case be scheduled for pretrial or some other proceeding. The rule applies to misdemeanors and felonies alike. There is a proposal pending that would eliminate the process altogether and require the presence of all defendants at arraignment.
Proponents of the amendment to the rule state that a defendant’s absence from arraignment creates certain safety concerns. For example, a defendant cannot receive a bail revocation warning or an order to stay away from a victim. Nor for that matter would the defendant be present for the setting of conditions of bail. Advocates of the “new rule” ignore some critical points. The current version of the rule works. It contemplates the attorney telling his client when to return to court. Consistent with this obligation the judge at arraignment could simply order the attorney to advise the defendant of any bail conditions, stay orders or bail revocation warnings should any of these circumstances present themselves.
As a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer who represents countless people living out of state I find the Rule 7(a)(2) necessary. We get calls from clients summonsed for Assault and Battery Cases, Motor Vehicle Crimes, Drug Crimes and more who are often unable to get to court on short notice for an arraignment. Many of these clients were unaware that criminal process was going to issue particularly in instances where the police were not involved. Rule 7(a)(2) enables us to go into court for our clients, have them arraigned in absentia and schedule a date convenient for a resolution of their case. This also gives us time to educate the district attorney about the nature of the allegations and negotiate a resolution with minimal court appearances.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has represented the accused for over twenty years. Many of our clients reside outside of the Commonwealth and have availed themselves of Rule 7. If you are in trouble calls us at 617-263-6800 or contact us online.