Dangerousness Hearings

Dangerousness Hearings

A dangerousness hearing is held in order to determine whether a defendant will be held without bail for up to 120 days, as the Commonwealth seeks, or whether there are less restrictive means of release that will assure the safety of the community for a particular alleged victim. A dangerousness hearing occurs after the Commonwealth has requested such a hearing by motion, as described here. 

At the hearing, the Commonwealth has the burden of providing by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant poses a danger to the safety of any other person or the community and that “no conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of any other person or the community. M.G.L. c. 276 § 58A(3). This is a higher standard than probable cause, but below the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Commonwealth proceeds first by offering testimony and other evidence to prove the defendant poses a danger, as described above. Defense counsel is permitted to object to evidence, and to cross-examine witnesses.  

The judge will consider the following factors in making a decision: 

  • the nature and seriousness of the danger posed to any person or the community that would result by the defendant’s release;
  • the nature and circumstances of the alleged offense;
  • the potential penalty the defendant faces if convicted
  • the defendant’s family ties and employment record;
  • the defendant’s history of mental illness; 
  • the defendant’s reputation;
  • illegal drug distribution by the defendant or the defendant’s present drug dependency;
  • whether the defendant is on bail pending adjudication of a prior charge;
  • the risk that the defendant would attempt to obstruct justice or threaten, injure or intimidate any witnesses;
  • whether the defendant is on probation, parole, or other release pending completion of sentence for any conviction and whether he or she is on release pending sentence or appeal for any conviction;
  • whether the alleged facts involve “abuse” as defined in M.G.L. c. 209A; and 
  • the defendant’s record of convictions.

After hearing the evidence and weighing these factors, the Court must decide whether to hold the defendant without bail, or whether conditions of release will ensure the safety of an alleged victim and/or the community.  The statute provides examples of conditions that can be placed on the defendant, rather than imposing pre-trial detention, which include:

  • requiring him or her to seek and/or maintain employment;
  • requiring him or her to remain in school;
  • restricting travel and associations with particular individuals;
  • releasing him or her to the custody of designated persons;
  • imposing a curfew;
  • imposing stay-away/no contact orders from any alleged victims;
  • prohibiting the possession of firearms or other weapons;
  • placing restrictions on drug and alcohol use; and/or
  • imposing a requirement that he or she undergo drug or alcohol treatment. 

If the hearing is in district court, the defendant can appeal the decision to the Superior Court. 

What to Do if You are Facing a Dangerousness Hearing in MA

If you or a loved one are facing a dangerousness hearing, you need experienced counsel as soon as possible to prepare your defenses and fight for your release pending trial. Ashley knows how to present an effective defense at these hearings based on her years of experience as a prosecutor. Call McCormack Law today to discuss your options. 

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