Sentencing Advocacy in the Massachusetts District Courts

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Massachusetts Bar Association




A number of recent legislative initiatives' have brought significant changes to the sentencing practices in the Massachusetts district courts. This article outlines some of these changes, and describes the variety of available district court sentences, in order to assist district court practitioners in their pursuit of effective sentencing advocacy.2 The importance of sentencing advocacy cannot be underestimated. In a system where only a small percentage of cases actually go to trial,3 it is clear that the dispositional decision, deemed a criticial stage of any criminal proceeding, presents an important opportunity for effective advocacy.4 The first section addresses the legislative changes enacted over the past year5 and their effect on the sentencing decision. The second section focuses on the factors that the court and defense counsel should consider when determining the disposition of a criminal case. Third, the paper discusses the variety of options that the court and counsel have available to fashion an appropriate and individualized disposition. The final section addresses available post conviction relief.

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