In what court might a criminal case be heard in Massachusetts?

When criminal charges are brought against an individual in Massachusetts, the individual's case will either be held in district court or superior court. This may seem confusing, particularly if one is unfamiliar with Massachusett's court system. Therefore, let's explore the differences between criminal cases in each of these types of courts.

If a criminal case originates in district court, first a complaint must be filed in the clerk's office for that district court. This complaint can be filed by a person or by the police. If a criminal case originates in superior court, on the other hand, first there will be an indictment. An indictment is a document that states what criminal charges are being brought against the accused. The indictment is returned by a grand jury. The prosecution will provide the members of the grand jury with evidence. If they determine that probable cause exists to believe that something illegal was done, then an indictment will be issued. Keep in mind that an indictment only lists the charges against the accused. It is not a determination of guilt.

In general, crimes in Massachusetts will originate in district court, and if they are serious enough, then they will be presented to a grand jury. If an indictment is then issued, the case will be dismissed at the district court level, and the case will move forward in the superior court. In general, a district court will only decide cases where the penalty for committing the crime at issue amounts to less than five years in prison.

This is only a brief overview of district courts and superior courts in Massachusetts. It cannot guarantee whether a certain case will originate in either court. Those who want further information on the Massachusetts court system or those who have been charged with a crime may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney.

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