A district attorney (D.A.) is the prosecuting officer of a criminal case. This official represents the government in prosecuting criminal offenses. They are elected officials. D.A.s have several deputies underneath them who handle the day-to-day criminal prosecution activities. D.A.s typically make the determination about what, if any, criminal charges are filed. The police will make an arrest, but the district attorney determines whether to prosecute. The decision to prosecute will be made after the D.A. investigates.
Following an investigation, a district attorney will argue in favor of prosecuting the alleged criminal during a preliminary hearing. This will involve a grand jury. If the D.A. decides to proceed with charges, they will represent the state of Massachusetts. The district attorney will argue in favor of bringing the matter to trial.
Training and Outreach
A Massachusetts D.A.'s job doesn't just begin and end in the courtroom. D.A.s often spend time training police officers and conducting outreach within the communities they serve. It's not as glamorous as T.V. shows would lead you to believe. Before the grand jury, the district attorney or the assistant district attorney will argue in favor of bringing the criminal matter to trial.
If the case proceeds beyond the grand jury, the matter will go before a court. There, the district attorney's job will continue until the alleged criminal is either relieved of charges or sentenced.
For instance, D.A.s may hold training sessions for their local police department on matters such as search and seizure law, criminal investigations, arrests, and more. D.A.s might also work with community groups to identify and help stop human trafficking, handle domestic violence cases, or recent updates to Megan's Law requirements for sex offenders. Other common issues include prevention programs targeted at bullying and cyberbullying, gang awareness, community-based justice, and even how to prevent sexual assault on campus and in the community.
District attorneys work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to administrate criminal law and criminal justice. If you're facing trial and communicating with the district attorney's office over a criminal charge, you will see how arduous a process the criminal system is. If you're dealing with this process, it's a good idea to seek legal services from a licensed attorney. It's also important to know that district attorneys deal with all types of criminal matters. These include:
- Assault and battery
- Driving under the influence (DUI) offenses
- Domestic violence
- Restraining order violations
- Motor vehicle offenses, including hit-and-runs
Getting Legal Help
You still have options if you can't afford a criminal defense attorney. If you're a qualifying person with low income, you could get an attorney through the office of the public defender in Massachusetts. Whether you're in Boston, Lowell, Springfield, or elsewhere, there will always be an office of the public defender. At your local office of the public defender, you can find low-cost attorneys to help you with your criminal proceedings. Public defenders are available statewide. They're important to have when you're communicating with the district attorney's office.
If you cannot find an attorney through the office of the public defender, you could also try contacting Legal Aid Massachusetts. This organization is a nonprofit organization. It provides free or low-cost attorneys to qualifying people. Attorneys staffed at this organization provide free or low-cost legal representation on all legal matters, criminal or otherwise. They are an excellent legal resource. You can obtain useful legal information from this group while also finding an attorney.
While many attorneys are salaried at Legal Aid Massachusetts, some might be volunteer lawyers. You could call the organization's hotline at 617-482-6212 to learn more. If you need an attorney referral, you could also contact the Massachusetts State Bar Association. This organization can provide free lawyer referral services.
Massachusetts Attorney General's Office
While the district attorney represents the state in all criminal prosecutions—typically involving crimes committed in the county where they will be prosecuted—the Attorney General represents the state in litigation by or against the state. The Attorney General can bring a criminal case, but often, they work on civil litigation matters. When states sued the tobacco companies for harms caused to their residents, it was the attorney general's offices that brought the suit.
Massachusetts County District Attorney Offices
Massachusetts has an elected district attorney for each judicial district. These districts can represent more than one county, as you can see below. There are district attorney's offices throughout the commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Note: Although we strive to provide the most current contact and website information available for the D.A. offices in this state, this information is subject to change. If you have found contact or website information that is not current, please contact us.
Charged With a Criminal Offense? A Local Attorney Can Help
Is a Massachusetts district attorney claiming you violated the law? You might be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, but regardless, you should seek legal advice to help you better understand your rights and responsibilities. The best way to do that is to get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.
An attorney will be able to help you with your legal problems. You shouldn't try to resolve such matters on your own. Perhaps you need help with expunging an offense from your criminal record. Perhaps you're not currently on trial. Whatever your unique set of circumstances, a criminal defense lawyer can help. Whether you're in Boston or elsewhere, it's important to get the advocacy you need.