The goverment's attempt to hold a Defendant for up to 120 days in pretrial detention.

Mass. General Laws Chapter 276, Section 58A

A dangerousness hearing is when the prosecution requests a judge to hold a defendant without bail for up to 120 days. If you lose a dangerousness hearing, you will be locked up in jail without being convicted of anything. It will not feel like you are still presumed innocent until proven guilty. 

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 276, Section 58A, “The commonwealth may move, based on dangerousness, for an order of pretrial detention or release on conditions for a felony offense that has as an element of the offense the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against the person of another or any other felony that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person of another may result…”

If the appropriate initial criteria is met, a date will be set for the dangerousness hearing to occur. Except for good cause, the hearing will likely occur within seven (7) days after a defendant's arraignment. A defendant has a constitutional right to be represented by a lawyer at the hearing. It is important to have an experienced Massachusetts Criminal Defense lawyer represent you at a dangerousness hearing. Attorney David Ellison has represented many clients at various dangerousness hearings within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A defendant has the right to summons in witnesses at this hearing and can compel their attendance and testimony. A defendant has the right to present evidence on their own behalf. 

The judge will have to determine two things at the hearing. First, the judge will try to determine if the person is considered a danger. Second, if the judge finds the person to be a danger, then the judge will determine whether the person should be detained or impose conditions of release. In the judge's analysis, they will consider the following:

Nature and seriousness of the danger posed to any person or the community that would result by the person's release;

  • Nature and circumstances of the offense charged;

  • Potential penalty the person faces;

  • Family ties, employment record;

  • History of mental illness, reputation;

  • Risk that the person would attempt to obstruct justice or threaten, injure or intimidate any witnesses; and

  • Record of the person's convictions.

After the hearing, the defendant can appeal the decision to the Superior Court. If you or a loved one is facing a dangerousness hearing, contact a Massachusetts Defense Lawyer today. 


A dangerousness hearing requires the Commonwealth to prove that the charges fall under the statute authorizing the defendant’s detention, and that no conditions can be imposed by the court that would adequately protect the public safety. Even before the Commonwealth has to prove that much, the defendant can be held for three days without any proof whatsoever. Dangerousness hearings are very serious matters and require substantial preparation in a small amount of time.

In some cases, a dangerousness hearing offers a first opportunity to observe and cross-examine the prosecutions’ witnesses.  However, there are reasons in some cases why it is not wise to have live witnesses testify at the hearing.  An experienced defense lawyer must carefully evaluate a case individually to determine how to handle a dangerousness hearing.

The Massachusetts Dangerousness statute, ch. 276 sec. 58A, defines certain charges and criteria under which a defendant can be held in jail without the possibility of being bailed out for one hundred and twenty days. This statue is commonly invoked in seriously violent cases, and often in cases of domestic violence.

For example, where a defendant is charged with using a firearm during a crime it is likely that the Commonwealth would seek to have that person held without bail. In cases of domestic assault and battery,  changes in the law have made clear that the legislature expects defendants to be held without bail on a much more frequent basis.


The judge may not impose a financial condition that results in the pretrial detention of the person.

The judge may at any time amend the order to impose additional or different conditions of release.

“There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”



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