What is the difference between District and Superior Court in Massachusetts Criminal Cases?
Massachusetts Criminal CourtsMassachusetts Criminal Sentencing Q: What is the difference between District and Superior Court in Massachusetts Criminal Cases? A:
In Massachusetts, District Courts have limited jurisdiction. A District Court judge only has the power to sentence a defendant up to 2 1/2 years in the House of Corrections, regardless of whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony. A Superior Court, on the other hand, has the power to sentence defendants to state prison time, up to life in prison for the most serious felonies. While most felony charges can be initiated by the prosecution in either the District or Superior Court, Massachusetts General Laws
requires that defendants charged with certain major felonies only be prosecuted and sentenced in Superior Court. The District Courts have initial jurisdiction for every criminal charge, meaning that a defendant arrested for murder can be arraigned in District Court, but the case will subsequently be transferred to Superior Court.