No parent is ever thrilled getting the phone call from their son or daughter telling them that they have been arrested. Although you may not be thrilled with your child after you hang up the phone, you likely want to make sure that they are treated fairly by the criminal justice system and the Dean of Students office. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible can help ensure that your child may be able to preserve their criminal record or point out defenses to the alleged misconduct.


     Whether your child is charged with Operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor or "OUI", a controlled substance offense, an assault and battery, or a crime of domestic violence, you can rest assured knowing that your child's case is being handled by attorney Sandell. Attorney Sandell has resolved over two thousand cases in District Courts across the Commonwealth, with many of those cases involving college aged students at local colleges in Western Massachusetts. As someone who has seen numerous cases stemming from riots on college campuses, cases stemming from all sorts of alcohol induced behavior at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and long term drug investigations that lead to students going to court, there is very little that attorney Sandell has not seen throughout his fifteen years in Western Massachusetts.

What is the difference between a show cause hearing and an arraignment?

     A "Show cause hearing" is a hearing that generally occurs in front of either a Clerk Magistrate or an Assistant Clerk Magistrate and not in front of a judge.  Generally the Plaintiff [ or party seeking the issuance of a criminal complaint] is one police officer from the department that either arrested or issued a summons to the defendant. The Police officer is generally not the officer that interacted with the person when the incident happened, but is a "Liaison" Officer that handles all show cause hearings for that police department. In other cases a private citizen may be the Plaintiff seeking the issuance of a criminal complaint against another private citizen. A defendant's attorney should in most cases be able to obtain a written statement of the allegations prior to the hearing.

     During this hearing, the Liaison officer or Plaintiff reads a report submitted by the officer that interacted with the defendant on the date of the incident.  A defendant or a defendant's attorney is allowed to ask questions of the officer, can present evidence on a defendant's behalf, and can also make an argument on the client's behalf. Depending on which court your show cause hearing is scheduled, it may be in person or over zoom. 

     The Clerk or Assistant Clerk's role is to ultimately determine whether or not there is probable cause to issue a complaint, and in some circumstances consider whether or not there is an alternative that can satisfy all parties short of issuing the criminal complaint. Having an experienced attorney familiar with the practices of the specific court you have your hearing scheduled can make a significant impact on whether or not a complaint issues. 

     If the Clerk or Assistant Clerk determines that there is probable cause to issue a complaint and chooses to proceed with the complaint. The next court event is an "Arraignment". 

     An "Arraignment" is the formal process where an individual is brought before a judge and each of the charges or alleged violations of the law are read publicly to the defendant. It is possible to "waive a formal reading of the complaint" so the that allegation are not read publicly. In either circumstance, the defendant is made aware of the formal charges against them. 

     Depending on the allegation and an individuals history with the court system, issues regarding bail and/or conditions of release are addressed. An experienced attorney can make a tremendous difference as to how much of a bail is imposed as well as what conditions of release will be imposed by court. 

     If you are scheduled for an arraignment, when you arrive at the courthouse, you should go over to the probation department office located in the building, approach the front counter, and give the probation staff your name and tell them that you are scheduled for an arraignment today. You will need to complete an intake form with the probation department before your file is brought into the courtroom for your arraignment. 

     After your arraignment is concluded you will almost always have a Pre-Trial Hearing scheduled as your next court event. 


What is Diversion Program and am I eligible ?

      Most if not all counties in Massachusetts have various types of "Diversion Programs" that can lead to a favorable outcome for a person charged with a crime. There are Three main types of Diversions Programs available in Massachusetts that I would categorize as "Drug Diversion Treatment Program", "Valor or Brave Act referral" and " Restorative Justice". 

     Diversions Programs are generally offered to persons with little to no criminal record, but there are exceptions. Completing a Diversion Program successfully can often lead to an outright dismissal of the charges alleged against you. Entering into a Diversion Program is not the same as pleading guilty, think of a Diversion Program as a contractual disposition somewhat similar to buying a pizza. You agree to give the restaurant a set amount of money and the restaurant agrees to give you a pizza. With a Diversion Program, you must understand everything regarding what will be expected of you over a set period of time. Conditions may include drug treatment, AA/NA meetings, Individual counseling, anger management classes, and may also include drug screens. If you successfully comply with all of your conditions and do not get into any further trouble, the criminal charges will likely be dismissed. 

      Having an experienced attorney attempt to have a defendant entered into a diversion program prior to your arraignment can have an impact on a person's criminal record. An arraignment is the triggering event that generates a criminal record if you do not already have one. Completing a diversion program prior to arraignment often results in a criminal charge being dismissed without anything being documented on your criminal record. 

      A " Valor Act" or Brave Act" referral is only available to person who has served in the U.S. military or national guard.  Persons with little or no prior history are more likely to be accepted into this type of program. When you complete your intake with the probation department prior to being arraigned, you or your lawyer should tell the probation department that you have prior military service and believe that you qualify for either the Valor or Brave act. Discussing the differences between the two Acts is beyond the scope of this paragraph but in a nutshell, the Brave Act can offer a better disposition but the person must have had some sort of combat deployment. 

     Once you notify probation of your intent to exercise your rights under the act, the court should grant you a continuance. After you leave court that day, you should immediately contact your local VA treatment center and request a Valor Act referral.  The mental health clinician at the VA will conduct an assessment of your situation to determine is you have some underlying condition [ PTSD/ substance abuse or alchohol disorder/ anxiety/ depression] that can be addressed through a VA program. The clinician will write a report for you or your attorney indicating if you qualify and what services are recommended. 

     Your attorney will likely use that report to work with the local District Attorney's office to come up with a treatment plan. If a person successfully completes the treatment plan then your pending criminal matter will most likely be dismissed. 

      Restorative Justice is fairly new to the Criminal Justice system and it can be a good alternative to being prosecuted but it is not for everyone. Restorative Justice generally involves criminal allegations where there is a victim [ A person who was harmed, A person who had something taken from them, or a person who had something damaged by another]. After an initial screening, it is important to understand that you will most likely be required to attend private and open group meetings, psychological counseling, possibly substance abuse treatment/ therapy, expressing remorse to the person who was harmed by your actions, and possibly writing a reflection paper based on your experience. There will be number of meetings that may either be in person or over zoom. Failure to attend all meetings in a timely manner will likely result in you being terminated from the program. If one successfully completes a restorative justice program than it would likely result in a dismissal of your charges as well. 

     Having an experienced attorney familiar with these programs can make a difference as to whether you are accepted into the program as well as assisting you in completing the program successfully.



I was charged with an OUI [Drunk Driving], what do I do now?

     Whether it is myself or another qualified attorney, it is generally not a good idea for someone to try and represent yourself in an OUI matter. There are many issues in an OUI such as the reliability of field sobriety tests, admissibility of breathalyzer results, search and seizure issues, and license loss issues that would be overlooked by a layperson or inexperienced attorney. 

     Even in the event that you ultimately decide to tender a plea to an OUI, it can be helpful for an attorney to try and reduce the fines and fees assessed by the court, request a removal of travel restrictions so that you can leave the state, and give you a clear understanding of the costs and time involved in court ordered treatment programs and the hardship license process. 

     With very limited exceptions, Massachusetts has a lifetime lookback period for OUI offenses. The choice you made to represent yourself on an OUI years ago may be the reason you are looking at a jail sentence for your current OUI. 

     Finally, issues regarding interlock ignition devices [ A breathalyzer test in your car] can also be complicated, confusing, and costly. Failure to understand and comply with all of the requirements imposed on you by the RMV could result in you losing your right to operate a motor for decades and up to life. 

     Many District Attorney's offices are also open to discussions regarding a possible dismissal of an OUI charge if a client tenders a plea to Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle. Although the charge of Negligent Operation of a motor vehicle is a a criminal offense, in general the costs, programs, license loss, and impact on your future are greatly reduced as compared to tendering a plea to an OUI. Although not every OUI has the potential to be negotiated down with the District Attorney's office, it is important that you have an experienced attorney to aid you in this process and explore all of your available options. 


     Dan Sandell has tried OUI's in front of judges and Juries. Dan has tried 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th offense OUI's in District Courts across Massachusetts. Dan has won cases with breathalyzer tests and without them. Dan is not a magician that can make all of your problems go away with a snap of his finger, but he has the experience you need to know that you are being effectively represented during this difficult time.

I was charged with a controlled substance offense [ drug possession], what do I do now?

     Whether it is myself or another qualified attorney, it is generally not a good idea for someone to try and represent yourself in an allegation involving the possession or distribution of a controlled substance. There are many issues in these types of cases that can be overlooked by a layperson or inexperienced attorney. 

     Having an attorney who is familiar with the execution of search warrants, search and seizure issues related to motor vehicle stops, search and seizure issues involving a search of a person can make a huge difference in identifying issues that could lead to a successful Motion to Suppress Evidence. Dan has represented hundreds of persons charged with drug offenses in District Courts in Hampshire and Hampden Counties. The sheer volume of controlled substance cases that Dan has represented clients on rivals or exceeds most law firms in this area.

     Dan has also tried matters involving drug possession and drug distribution. Dan has the experience and knowledge to prepare you for trial and to explain your theory of defense to a factfinder, whether it be a judge or jury. Dan has also argued many Motions to Suppress Evidence on a variety of fact patterns.

     In addition to the practical experience in arguing motions, tendering pleas, and trying controlled substance offenses, Dan has also built a wide network of professional relationships with the Assistant District Attorney's offices and treatment programs in Western Massachusetts. Many District Attorney's offices now offer Drug Diversion Treatment Programs and Dan can help assess whether you are an appropriate candidate for a Diversion Program. Dan can reach out to a District Attorney's office to help you get an initial screen or intake conducted to see if you qualify for a diversion program. 

     In the event that you decide not to take your case to trial and you do not qualify for a Drug Diversion Program, Dan has the experience and the relationships to help you obtain the best possible disposition of your matter. Issues regarding the length of probation, the terms and conditions of your probation, as well as the financial costs associated with being on probation can be minimized as much as realistically possible with a skilled attorney like Dan. 

    Dan is not a magician that can make all of your problems go away with a snap of his finger, but he has the experience you need to know that you are being effectively represented during this difficult time.

I was charged with an assault and battery or an allegation of domestic violence, what do I do now?

     Whether it is myself or another qualified attorney, it is generally not a good idea for someone to try and represent yourself in an allegation involving an assault and battery or an allegation of domestic violence. There are so many problems that can occur if one chooses to represent them self in this situation that listing them all is beyond the scope of this article.  A person representing them self can make catastrophic mistakes rearding release conditions, dangerousness hearings, and agreeing to conditions of probation that may not be warranted.

     A layperson that perceives  an attempt to speak to an alleged victim may appear in that person's mind as innocent conduct. However, a District Attorney's office may disagree and in some circumstances a person's behavior toward an alleged victim could leading to a felony charge of intimidation of a witness. Having an experienced attorney who can use private investigator effectively can avoid this situation from happening. These are just a few of the problems that people run into in trying to represent themselves in these types of situations. 

     Having an attorney who is familiar with theories of self defense, marital privileges, fifth amendment privileges, has access to to private investigators, and has experience in negotiating with District Attorney's Offices in these types of matters can make a big difference on how your case is resolved. Having an attorney that can explain to you the difference between a certified batterers program, an anger management program, individual counseling, couples counseling, and one on one counseling can also have a huge impact on how your case is resolved and how your life is affected if you are ultimately placed on probation for this type of offense.  

     Dan has tried a number of matters involving Assault and Battery and other related violent offenses,  has the experience and knowledge to prepare you for trial and to explain your theory of defense to a factfinder, whether it be a judge or jury. 

     Dan is not a magician that can make all of your problems go away with a snap of his finger, but he has the experience you need to know that you are being effectively represented during this difficult time.

I was charged or my child was charged with underage possession of alcohol or marijuana, what do I do now?

     These types of situation frequently occur in and around college campuses. Although Jail is not likely at all, minimizing the affect that a criminal charge could have is something that an attorney can assist you with. Attempting to resolve a matter at a show cause hearing or through a diversion program are two ways in which Dan can help you dispose of a matter with very little impact on your criminal record.  

     If you or a loved one is a student, Dan can advise you on how to present yourself and tell your side of the story to a Dean of Student's Office so you can have an opportunity to remain on campus. Losing thousands of dollars of tuition over a two dollar beer can is obviously not ideal. Unless a very unique situation represents itself, Dan has found that it is generally not productive for you to have an attorney by your side while you are attending a disciplinary hearing at a College or University. 

     If you have no prior criminal record than there is a realistic chance that you may be eligible for a diversion program. Having an attorney explain the diversion process to you as well as ensuring that your diversion occurs prior to your arraignment can increase the chances that you successfully complete a diversion program, as well as minimizing the effect that your conduct has on your criminal record.    

     Dan has represented college students over the years on a wide variety of issues including but not limited to; underage possession of alcohol/marijuana, OUI's, Riots, Drug possession, and violent offenses. Dan is more than capable of representing you or your loved one on their matter involving a beer can or solo cup on a college campus. Finally, Dan is a proud member of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Class of 2000.  

     Dan is not a magician that can make all of your problems go away with a snap of his finger, but he has the experience you need to know that you are being effectively represented during this difficult time.

The Law Office of Daniel M. Sandell

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228 Triangle St., 2nd Floor   
Amherst, MA 01002