Vacating a Criminal Conviction and Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant in Massachusetts
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Vacating a Criminal Conviction and Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant in Massachusetts

November 2nd, 2022

A criminal conviction can simply be overwhelming. It can be incredibly intimidating to stand in front of a courtroom and be accused of a criminal act. A judge will quickly decide whether they can remain free from custody while their case makes its way through the criminal justice system. Generally, the person will have only brief appearances in court before being faced with a decision of whether or not to accept responsibility for the allegations.

Often, they are not even asked for their side of the story. Accepting responsibility may mean they are let out of jail and reunited with their family, or it may mean they no longer have to take days off work to sit for hours in a criminal courtroom. There are many reasons why someone will plead guilty or accept responsibility  for (note:  there are dispositions that are not consider a guilty plea, i.e. a continuance without a finding, however, it is accepting responsibility and negative for immigration)  something even though they may not be at fault. The true consequence of a criminal conviction is often not felt immediately, but later a person can face unexpected consequences, such as having their driver’s license revoked, losing their job, having their application for a visa denied, or even being deported from the United States.

Grounds to File a Motion to Vacate a Criminal Conviction in Massachusetts

Fortunately, in some instances, our court system provides a second chance. Massachusetts law allows a court to remove a conviction if it was obtained unjustly or if the procedures were improper. This will generally require information about how the initial criminal case proceeded and what evidence the government had against the individual. There are many scenarios in which the court might grant a motion to vacate a conviction.

Plea Must Be Knowingly, Intelligently, and Voluntarily Made

If a guilty plea was made, the defendant must have made the guilty plea knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily for it to be valid. A plea is voluntary if the defendant made the plea of their own free will and was not unlawfully coerced into pleading guilty.

The plea must also be intelligently made, meaning that the defendant must understand the circumstances of their case and the possible consequences of pleading guilty. Lastly, a defendant’s plea must be made knowingly, which simply means that the defendant knows the charges against them and the elements of the crimes with which they have been charged.  If it can be proven that a plea was not knowlingly, intelligently and voluntarily made then it is possible to have the conviction removed.

Failure to Read a “Colloquy” to a Defendant

In Massachusetts, postconviction relief may also be requested if a judge failed to read the necessary “colloquy” before accepting a defendant’s guilty plea. A colloquy is a series of questions the judge will ask the defendant to confirm that their guilty plea was made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily.

Using a colloquy helps the judge ensure that the defendant’s guilty plea is free of coercion; that they understand the crimes they have been charged with; that they are aware of the extent of their guilt; that they understand the potential consequences involved, and that they are competent to make the plea. It also reminds the defendant that they have a right to a trial if they so choose. Failing to make these inquiries can be grounds for postconviction relief.

Competency of the Defendant

A defendant must also be mentally competent to enter their guilty plea. A defendant is considered competent to enter a guilty plea if they have the present ability to consult with their attorney and have a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against them. If a judge fails to ensure that the defendant comprehends what they are pleading to, a request can be made to vacate a conviction.

Effects on Defendant’s Immigration Status

There are many ways a criminal conviction can affect a person’s immigration status.  A criminal conviction may result in a person’s deportation or removal from the United States. It may prevent them from obtaining U.S. citizenship and it may render them inadmissible (ineligible for residency or entry to the United States with a Visa).

In Massachusetts, the court is required to provide each defendant with a verbal warning about the potential immigration impacts that guilty pleas and admissions can have on the status of an immigrant.  If the court does not provide these warnings and an individual may be subject to one of those consequences then the conviction can be or may be vacated.  In addition to the court warnings, a defendant must be advised by his attorney of all of the potential consequences that a plea or admission will have on their immigration status. If the criminal defense attorney does not provide this advice and information, then the conviction may be vacated if the defendant can demonstrate there was a reasonable alternative to the plea or admission.

Your Constitutional Rights as a Defendant in a Massachusetts Criminal Case

There are rights that every criminal defendant has and if those rights were not respected the defendant may have this conviction vacated or overturned. In Massachusetts, some important rights include:

  • The right to be present at all critical stages of the criminal proceeding
  • The right to a trial by jury or by a judge
  • The right to present evidence and testimony
  • The right to examine and review the evidence that the government has against you prior to the trial
  • The right to representation by a qualified attorney that properly represents you
  • Right to be advised by the judge of the potential immigration consequences of your conviction before you plea
  • And the right that your attorney provides a detailed explanation of the actual immigration consequences of your plea

Postconviction Relief Under Rule 30 of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure

Rule 30 of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure, provides for Postconviction Relief, as it allows a defendant who has made an admission to sufficient facts, pleaded guilty, or been found guilty to file a motion for a new trial, vacating the conviction.

In Massachusetts in order to vacate a conviction, the postconviction relief procedures, under Rule 30 require the defendant to:

  • Present a motion for a new trial, to the Court that issued the conviction. The motion must be heard by the same Judge that entered the judgement of conviction, and only if that Judge is not accessible, may another Judge rule on that motion.
  • The motion must be accompanied by sufficient evidence, in the form of an affidavit (a sworn statement), as well as other records and documentation, if they are available, to demonstrate that the conviction which was entered was unlawful.
  • The motion and its supporting evidence must be served on the prosecutor’s office that handled the case for the Commonwealth, whether it was the Office of the Attorney General or one of the District Attorney’s Offices.
  • The Court, in its discretion, may schedule an evidentiary hearing at either party’s request, if it is necessary for the Court to reach a decision.
  • The Court after reviewing the motion, with or without a hearing, must issue a decision granting or denying the request for a new trial.

What Happens if My Massachusetts Criminal Conviction is Vacated?

If the court vacates the conviction, the defendant will usually be required to defend the charges again, so it is important to consider the likelihood of whether or not the new trial will be successful, before filing the motion to vacate a conviction.

Courts are generally more open to vacating a conviction if it is clear that the defendant will be successful in their defense. Vacating a conviction and successfully defending the case can eliminate virtually all of the problems that the conviction caused or would cause, and it can be vital for non-U.S. citizens to be able to remain in the United States.

If you are facing criminal charges, have been improperly convicted or your rights have been violated, our Boston criminal defense lawyers can defend you and assist with vacating a conviction in Massachusetts. Vacating a conviction and obtaining the proper criminal defense is all the more important if you are an immigrant as certain types of pleas which may look advantageous in terms of less harsh punishments can be worse in terms of immigration consequences. Our experience with immigration matters makes our criminal defense attorneys uniquely qualified to represent immigrants in criminal matters.

Our Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

To schedule a consultation with one of our criminal defense lawyers in Massachusetts call us at 617-523-6320 (ext.0) or request your appointment online. It will be our pleasure to serve you. Our Boston law firm can also assist you with any Immigration and Personal Injury Matters.

 

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The information contained in this Web site is general in nature and subject to change at any point in time. As such, it may not necessarily apply to all situations. Therefore, under no circumstance it should be construed as legal advice. Please ensure that you consult with an attorney regarding your specific situation before starting a legal process.

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Ahmed B.

I really like that they speak so many languages and can help anyone!

FitzGerald Law Company recently handled my immigration case for me and everything turned out great! The staff is excellent all the way from the secretary and assistant all the way up to the attorney. My attorney was Desmond Fitzgerald himself and he was excellent.

Swarsatie R.

They have been very supportive and professional

My family and I have had an excellent experience with Desmond and his team at FitzGerald Law Company. They have been very supportive and professional, addressing our every concern. I feel fortunate to have found them and worked with them on my son's immigration case.

Yoseph A.

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Natasha A.

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Patricia M.

The service was efficient, professional and precise

I highly recommend Fitzgerald law company. The service was efficient, professional and precise. My lawyer, Juan Congote, helped me get through the green card process. I had zero problems and it was very fast. Juan was very meticulous with the documents until the very end. I really liked that!

Valerio B.

A very well organized firm, experienced and professional.

My experience was exceptionally great. A very well organized firm, experienced and professional. Customer service was excellent and the lawyer that handled my case, Desmond Fitzgerald was the best. He was very thorough and very experienced. He knows what he's talking about. All in all, I had a positive experience and I highly recommend this company, especially Desmond Fitzgerald, he's awesome.

Mike A.

They helped me with a personal injury case

Highly recommend Mr Desmond Fitzgerald and his team. They helped me with a personal injury case. He was realistic about outcomes and professional and came through for me.

Garo M.

Experienced, professional, and caring

It was a great pleasure to have Mr. FitzGerald as my attorney. He was always there when I needed him. He is experienced, professional, and caring. I would recommend his services to anyone. I greatly appreciate what he did for me and would like to take the chance to express my gratitude to his hard work. Thank you very much Mr. FitzGerald. You'r the best...

Ahmed B.

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case...kept me in the know throughout the whole process. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone looking for representation in a court case. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

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He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly

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Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case...kept me in the know throughout the whole process. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone looking for representation in a court case. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

James K.

He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly

Mr Desmond and his team did a remarkable job in immigration for my family and I. He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly. Highly recommended

Gassim F.

They made the process very smooth and pleasant

Desmond and his team did a great job during my husband’s green card application. Very diligent, reliable and knowledgeable. They made the process very smooth and pleasant. Highly recommended!

Karol S.

The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional

The best lawfirm in Massachusetts. The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional.

Zulia O.

They make the process as simple as possible

Our experience with the FitzGerald Law Company is beyond positive. They make the process as simple as possible and are there to help and support the entire time. Everyone we've been in touch from their office was nice and helpful. We won the case and we would definitely use their services again. Thank you Juan & the team!

Anonymous for Firm

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A very professional and committed team...They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

Anonymous for Firm

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My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Anonymous for Firm

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Anonymous for Firm

I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again

The lawyer did an excellent job, it was really wonderful and inspiring to have him as a lawyer, he truly handled my case and everything went as expected. They always call or sent me an email to inform me the progress of my case, I am always feel welcomed when I meet with them. I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again in the future.

Anonymous for Firm

I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer

Desmond FitzGerald and his staff handles the daunting immigration legal paperwork with the utmost professionalism but always keeping the experience personal and realistic. I always felt that that I mattered. FitzGerald & Company has many payment options and they work with you to set up a payment plan which is affordable. {para}I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer.

Anonymous for Firm

They make the process as simple as possible

Our experience with the FitzGerald Law Company is beyond positive. They make the process as simple as possible and are there to help and support the entire time. Everyone we've been in touch from their office was nice and helpful. We won the case and we would definitely use their services again. Thank you Juan & the team!

Anonymous for Firm

They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments

A very professional and committed team...They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

Anonymous for Firm

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Anonymous for Firm

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Anonymous for Firm

I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again

The lawyer did an excellent job, it was really wonderful and inspiring to have him as a lawyer, he truly handled my case and everything went as expected. They always call or sent me an email to inform me the progress of my case, I am always feel welcomed when I meet with them. I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again in the future.

Anonymous for Firm

I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer

Desmond FitzGerald and his staff handles the daunting immigration legal paperwork with the utmost professionalism but always keeping the experience personal and realistic. I always felt that that I mattered. FitzGerald & Company has many payment options and they work with you to set up a payment plan which is affordable. {para}I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer.

Anonymous for Firm

I really like that they speak so many languages and can help anyone!

FitzGerald Law Company recently handled my immigration case for me and everything turned out great! The staff is excellent all the way from the secretary and assistant all the way up to the attorney. My attorney was Desmond Fitzgerald himself and he was excellent.

Swarsatie R.

They have been very supportive and professional

My family and I have had an excellent experience with Desmond and his team at FitzGerald Law Company. They have been very supportive and professional, addressing our every concern. I feel fortunate to have found them and worked with them on my son's immigration case.

Yoseph A.

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Natasha A.

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Patricia M.

The service was efficient, professional and precise

I highly recommend Fitzgerald law company. The service was efficient, professional and precise. My lawyer, Juan Congote, helped me get through the green card process. I had zero problems and it was very fast. Juan was very meticulous with the documents until the very end. I really liked that!

Valerio B.

A very well organized firm, experienced and professional.

My experience was exceptionally great. A very well organized firm, experienced and professional. Customer service was excellent and the lawyer that handled my case, Desmond Fitzgerald was the best. He was very thorough and very experienced. He knows what he's talking about. All in all, I had a positive experience and I highly recommend this company, especially Desmond Fitzgerald, he's awesome.

Mike A.

They helped me with a personal injury case

Highly recommend Mr Desmond Fitzgerald and his team. They helped me with a personal injury case. He was realistic about outcomes and professional and came through for me.

Garo M.

Experienced, professional, and caring

It was a great pleasure to have Mr. FitzGerald as my attorney. He was always there when I needed him. He is experienced, professional, and caring. I would recommend his services to anyone. I greatly appreciate what he did for me and would like to take the chance to express my gratitude to his hard work. Thank you very much Mr. FitzGerald. You'r the best...

Ahmed B.

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case...kept me in the know throughout the whole process. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone looking for representation in a court case. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

James K.

He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly

Mr Desmond and his team did a remarkable job in immigration for my family and I. He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly. Highly recommended

Gassim F.

They made the process very smooth and pleasant

Desmond and his team did a great job during my husband’s green card application. Very diligent, reliable and knowledgeable. They made the process very smooth and pleasant. Highly recommended!

Karol S.

The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional

The best lawfirm in Massachusetts. The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional.

Zulia O.

They make the process as simple as possible

Our experience with the FitzGerald Law Company is beyond positive. They make the process as simple as possible and are there to help and support the entire time. Everyone we've been in touch from their office was nice and helpful. We won the case and we would definitely use their services again. Thank you Juan & the team!

Anonymous for Firm

They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments

A very professional and committed team...They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

Anonymous for Firm

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Anonymous for Firm

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Anonymous for Firm

I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again

The lawyer did an excellent job, it was really wonderful and inspiring to have him as a lawyer, he truly handled my case and everything went as expected. They always call or sent me an email to inform me the progress of my case, I am always feel welcomed when I meet with them. I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again in the future.

Anonymous for Firm

I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer

Desmond FitzGerald and his staff handles the daunting immigration legal paperwork with the utmost professionalism but always keeping the experience personal and realistic. I always felt that that I mattered. FitzGerald & Company has many payment options and they work with you to set up a payment plan which is affordable. {para}I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer.

Anonymous for Firm

I really like that they speak so many languages and can help anyone!

FitzGerald Law Company recently handled my immigration case for me and everything turned out great! The staff is excellent all the way from the secretary and assistant all the way up to the attorney. My attorney was Desmond Fitzgerald himself and he was excellent.

Swarsatie R.

They have been very supportive and professional

My family and I have had an excellent experience with Desmond and his team at FitzGerald Law Company. They have been very supportive and professional, addressing our every concern. I feel fortunate to have found them and worked with them on my son's immigration case.

Yoseph A.

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Natasha A.

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Patricia M.

The service was efficient, professional and precise

I highly recommend Fitzgerald law company. The service was efficient, professional and precise. My lawyer, Juan Congote, helped me get through the green card process. I had zero problems and it was very fast. Juan was very meticulous with the documents until the very end. I really liked that!

Valerio B.

A very well organized firm, experienced and professional.

My experience was exceptionally great. A very well organized firm, experienced and professional. Customer service was excellent and the lawyer that handled my case, Desmond Fitzgerald was the best. He was very thorough and very experienced. He knows what he's talking about. All in all, I had a positive experience and I highly recommend this company, especially Desmond Fitzgerald, he's awesome.

Mike A.

They helped me with a personal injury case

Highly recommend Mr Desmond Fitzgerald and his team. They helped me with a personal injury case. He was realistic about outcomes and professional and came through for me.

Garo M.

Experienced, professional, and caring

It was a great pleasure to have Mr. FitzGerald as my attorney. He was always there when I needed him. He is experienced, professional, and caring. I would recommend his services to anyone. I greatly appreciate what he did for me and would like to take the chance to express my gratitude to his hard work. Thank you very much Mr. FitzGerald. You'r the best...

Ahmed B.

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case...kept me in the know throughout the whole process. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone looking for representation in a court case. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

James K.

He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly

Mr Desmond and his team did a remarkable job in immigration for my family and I. He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly. Highly recommended

Gassim F.

They made the process very smooth and pleasant

Desmond and his team did a great job during my husband’s green card application. Very diligent, reliable and knowledgeable. They made the process very smooth and pleasant. Highly recommended!

Karol S.

The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional

The best lawfirm in Massachusetts. The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional.

Zulia O.

They make the process as simple as possible

Our experience with the FitzGerald Law Company is beyond positive. They make the process as simple as possible and are there to help and support the entire time. Everyone we've been in touch from their office was nice and helpful. We won the case and we would definitely use their services again. Thank you Juan & the team!

Anonymous for Firm

They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments

A very professional and committed team...They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

Anonymous for Firm

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Anonymous for Firm

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Anonymous for Firm

I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again

The lawyer did an excellent job, it was really wonderful and inspiring to have him as a lawyer, he truly handled my case and everything went as expected. They always call or sent me an email to inform me the progress of my case, I am always feel welcomed when I meet with them. I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again in the future.

Anonymous for Firm

I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer

Desmond FitzGerald and his staff handles the daunting immigration legal paperwork with the utmost professionalism but always keeping the experience personal and realistic. I always felt that that I mattered. FitzGerald & Company has many payment options and they work with you to set up a payment plan which is affordable. {para}I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer.

Anonymous for Firm