What is Pretrial Probation?
Pretrial probation can be a fast and favorable resolution of a case for a defendant who is charged with a crime. Pretrial probation is not a conviction, nor does it require the defendant to admit guilt. It does allow a judge in Massachusetts Superior Court, District Court, or Juvenile Court to dismiss charges against a defendant if and when the defendant fulfills certain probationary requirements.
Pretrial probation can take lots of different forms, depending on the individual circumstances of a case. For example, the probation requirements could include meeting with probation officers for a specified time period, paying restitution, being subject to drug testing, taking part in rehabilitative programs, or any other number of options. Compliance with the probation requirements will be enforced by the probation department of the court.
Judges have ultimate discretion to determine whether pretrial probation is appropriate in a given case. Attorneys can make arguments for pretrial probation to a judge, and the prosecutor must also agree to the pretrial probation. Prosecutors and Judges will often look at factors such as the seriousness of the charge, the defendant’s past criminal record, and the defendant’s personal circumstances when determining the appropriateness of pretrial probation.
There are many benefits for defendants who are granted pretrial probation. First, if the conditions of the probationary term are satisfied it will always lead to a dismissal of the case, and does not involve a finding of guilty, or an admission by the defendant. This can be especially important for noncitizens that could face potential immigration consequences from a guilty plea or admission. Second, once the probationary requirements are fulfilled, the case is dismissed, and the prosecutor cannot bring charges for the same alleged offense again. This is an advantage over other kinds of dismissals which do not necessarily prevent the re-filing of charges. Third, a pretrial resolution will save a substantial amount of time and expense that would otherwise be incurred through continued litigation of a case. Finally, the conditions of probation themselves can be tailored to a person’s unique situation, allowing for much more flexibility than other dispositions.
It should be noted that pretrial probation will not remove the charge from a person’s criminal record. The person’s record will indicate, however, that the charge was dismissed. The only way for a charge to be taken out of a person’s record entirely is for the person’s record to be sealed, which involves a wholly separate procedure.
If pretrial probation is granted by a judge, the defendant will have to follow the terms of the probation. If the terms of probation are violated, then the case will not be dismissed and the case will return to its original status and the prosecution will proceed with prosecuting the case.