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Massachusetts prosecutors will seek to revoke a defendant’s bail if he (1) is accused of committing a new crime or (2) violates any of his bail conditions. 

When a prosecutor files a motion to revoke a defendant’s bail, he or she must show the following:

Notice

The prosecutor must show that the court warned the defendant that bail could be revoked if the defendant committed a new crime or violated the conditions of his release. 

Such a warning is routinely given at arraignment and proof that notice was given to the defendant is usually found in the case’s docket sheet or in the arraignment transcript.

New Offense or Violation of Bail Conditions

Next the prosecutor must show that (1) there is probable cause to believe that defendant committed a new crime or (2) there is clear and convincing evidence showing that the defendant violated his bail conditions.

According to the SJC,

Probable cause exists where, at the moment of arrest, the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the police are enough to warrant a prudent person in believing that the individual arrested has committed or was committing an offense.[1]

This is a low burden of proof and often a police report alone is enough to satisfy a district court judge that probable cause exists.

If the prosecutor claims that the defendant violated bail conditions, he or she must prove so by “clear and convincing evidence.”  This is a higher burden of proof. 

If such a claim is made, defendants or their attorneys should carefully review the details of the bail terms for any viable defenses to the prosecution’s allegations.

Detention is Necessary

This is often the main focus at bail revocation hearings. 

The prosecutor must show that the defendant is dangerous and that his detention is necessary to ensure public safety (i.e., no other alternatives exist, aside from detention).

To determine whether detention is required, the district court judge will look at the factors listed in M.G.L. c. 276, § 58.  These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The nature of the offenses
  • The defendant’s criminal record
  • The defendant’s current probation or parole status
  • The defendant’s mental health or substance addiction

Bail Revocation Hearing

Evidentiary hearings (which involve witnesses, physical evidence, etc.) are not mandatory for bail revocation.  Such hearings may be granted only at the judge’s discretion.  Otherwise, the judge may simply hear oral arguments from the defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor. 

If the defendant is accused of a new offense, this hearing will usually take place at arraignment. 

However, both the defendant and the prosecutor may ask the judge to grant a continuance to obtain evidence or witnesses pertinent to the bail issue.  The defendant may request a continuance up to 7 days, while the prosecutor may request only 3 days.


[1] Commonwealth v. Landry, 438 Mass. 206, 210 (2002)