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What is a Felony in Massachusetts?

what is a felony in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, “felony” has a simple definition, but the application can be complicated. Any crime that can result in time in state prison is by definition a felony in Massachusetts.

However, many felonies in Massachusetts can be punished either by state prison time or house of corrections. This will depend on whether the case is indicted – whether the case is being held in district court or superior court.

Indictment is the process of going before a grand jury.  The grand jury is a collection of citizens that decides whether to indict someone.  The district attorney presents the case before the grand jury – you and your defense attorney are not involved.

State prison can only be imposed by a superior court after an indictment, while district courts impose time in the house of corrections (up to two-and-a-half years).  Probation can also be imposed at either level.  A felony in Massachusetts can be tried either in district court or superior court, depending on whether it’s indicted.

What Should I Do if I’m Charged with a Felony in Massachusetts?

That sounds very complicated, but here’s what’s important. If you’re arrested for a felony in Massachusetts, the district attorney in your county will make a decision whether to indict you or not. This will generally happen in district court.

Some felonies cannot be dealt with in district court at all.  They must be either indicted and sent to superior court or broken down to a misdemeanor in district court.

If the district attorney decides to indict your case, you will go to superior court and face state prison time. If the district attorney decides not to indict you, you will stay in district court, and the maximum sentence is two-and-a-half years in the house of corrections.  In Massachusetts, it is up to the district attorney whether to indict a felony or prosecute it in district court.


If you’re charged with a felony, you need a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney who will fight for you every step of the way. Call me today, and let’s get started on your defense. (617) 295-7500


Although I am an attorney, I am not your attorney.  Please do not rely on anything on this page as legal advice because any specific advice would depend on your situation.  Any results posted on this page are not guarantees of outcomes in your case.

Boston Attorney

The court system is stressful, whether you’re being charged with a crime, being sued, suing someone, or fighting for your ability to stay and work in this country. You need someone who appreciates this and can dedicate the time not only to represent you effectively in court but to guide you through the process.

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