Do you really know what a jury trial is about?

Unless you were chosen to serve as a juror, most people don’t know what jury trials are really about.  Sure, court room dramas are nice, but movies seldom explain the process.  Here are a few points about one of your most important consitutional rights. 

 The number of jurors: Depending on what court you are being tried, the number of jurors will vary.  The district court requires a unanimous decision by 6 jurors.  The superior court requires a unanimous decision by 12 jurors.  In short, the superior court requires twice as many jurors to return a verdict.  One reason for this difference is that the penalties are much more severe in superior court.  The stakes being higher, the amount of jurors are also higher. 

 Alternates: Most judges will sit more jurors than is required.  In both the district court and the superior court it is very common for the judge to impanel more jurors than required.  Judges will sit alternate jurors in case people have emergencies that arise.  If a judge empanels the minimum amount of jurors and a juror is unable to perform his or her duties, then the judge will most likley have to declare a mistrial.  To avoid this problem, judges will sit additional jurors. 

 Impaneling a jury:  The amount of time it takes to impanel a jury can very significantly.  Essentially, the court wants to impanel an impartial jury and for certain cases this can be difficult.  If you have jury duty, I am sure this isn’t something that you want to hear.  Cases that particularly take a long time to impanel a jury are cases involving sex offenses.  It can take days if not weeks to impanel a jury for a child molestation or rape case.  So if you are serving jury duty and find yourself as a potential jury in a sex offense case prepare for a long process. 

 Decision: As I have mentioned before, a jury decision in Massachusetts needs to be unanimous.  This means that the entire jury needs to agree with the decision of guilty or not guilty.  As you can imagine, this can make for long jury deliberations. 

 This post gives you a little background on jury trials.  Jury trials are complicated and it is never a good idea to represent yourself in a trial.  In the end, it is important to remember that it is not a perfect system.  However, it is bar far the best one ever created.

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 For more information:

 About the Massachusetts Jury System

 Preparing for a jury trial

Glossary of trial terms

Defense of Massachusetts Jury Service System

Anatomy of a jury trial

Vanishing Civil Jury Trials

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Global Positioning System (GPS) and the criminal justice system

Ten to fifteen years ago, GPS was pretty much an unknown to the public.  Now GPS technology is used in cars for directions, cell phones to find the closest café and in the criminal justice system. 

It is more common today to see GPS monitoring as part of a person’s criminal disposition.  Many times attorneys will use it as a last bargaining chip to keep their clients out of committed time.  This post is not to consider the pros and cons of the GPS monitoring, but to dissect what the GPS is really all about. 

If you are pleading out to a charge that requires you to be monitored by GPS what does that really mean?  Well first, the purpose of the GPS is to track and monitor the movements of the probationer.  The GPS itself operates on inclusion and exclusion zones. 

The person being monitored has to wear a transmitter that will allow the person to be seen wherever he or she goes.  The person who is wearing the transmitter must also carry a phone with them all the time.  If the person walks into or near an exclusionary zone, he or she will receive a phone call to leave right away.  If the person doesn’t leave after the phone call warning or doesn’t pick up the phone, the police will be called. 

The length of time that a person is to be monitored is to be decided by the judge.  The cost of this device is $9.45 a day or around $300 a month.  This fee can be waived by the judge.  The inclusion and exclusion zones are also usually decided by the judge.  For example, the usual exclusionary zones for sex offenders are playgrounds, schools and daycare centers.  The exclusionary zones can also be more tailored to the particular case, such as the victim’s home, work or school. 

Some things to keep in mind are that the GPS monitoring is mandatory for most sex offenses.  In order to get on a GPS there needs to be a unit available and a time to hook the person up.  The hook-ups are scheduled through the Commissioner of Probation (OCP).  If a person is custody and the judge won’t release them until they have a GPS, it may take a little while to find an available unit and to schedule a day for OCP to come hook up the unit. 

 GPS monitoring is becoming more common in Massachusetts and in different states.  The process that I have discussed in this post is not a universal procedure.  It is important for you to find out the protocol in the county that will be doing the monitoring. 

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For more information about GPS, visit:

More States Move to use GPS Tracking of Sex Offenders,2933,196455,00.html

 Attorney Dan Schumann’s blog about GPS

 William Saletan-Why GPS tracking is good news for inmates

Is GPS monitoring the better way?

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Passing a bad check could land you in cuffs

We write checks all the time. Most people will at least write one check a month. Thankfully for debit cards you are less likely to see someone pull out a check book at a store. However, writing checks is still a big part of paying bills for most people. Passing a bad check, could land you in jail.

If you write a check and there are insufficient funds in your checking account, you could be charged with larceny by check. Essentially, the prosecution needs to prove that:

• you wrote the check

• got something in return for writing that check

• knew that you didn’t have enough funds in your account

• wrote the check with the intent to defraud someone

With the economy as bad as it is, a lot of people are struggling to pay their bills. As a result, people’s bank accounts are dwindling and this could lead to more checks being bounced. When you bounce a check, it is pretty easy for the prosecution to prove that you wrote a check and got something in return. After all, most of us write checks to pay bills or in exchange for something.

It is much more difficult for the prosecution to prove that you knew that you didn’t have enough funds in your account, or had the intent to defraud. The prosecutor can’t look into your brain and see what your intent was, so they will have to rely on other evidence. One of the most common ways for the prosecution to try to prove that you knew there was insufficient funds and had the intent to defraud, is to look at the account. For example, if you wrote a check for $5,000 and your account usually has $5,000 or more, then it won’t help the prosecutor’s case much. On the other hand, if you write a check for $5,000 and your account never had more than $10 in the account, then that will be a problem for you.

Most people who bounce a check will never be charged with anything. Times are difficult making bad checks more common. In the end, to avoid any possible problems check you account status and make sure checks clear.

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For more information about this post:

MA General Laws Chapter 266: Section 37. Fraudulent checks, etc.; drawing or uttering

Jury Instructions on Larceny by check

News day report on larceny by check scam

Berkley man faces larceny by check charge

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Published in: on November 3, 2009 at 3:41 am  Leave a Comment