The COVID-19 Toll: For Whom the Statute Tolls in MA

Statue Tolls Laws in Massachusetts

For Whom the Statute Tolls (And What Does That Mean During a Pandemic?)

While the word “toll” seems to equate itself with payment on a highway or with Edgar Allan Poe’s infamous poem, in the legal community, tolling a deadline isn’t as ominous as it sounds. This is a legal doctrine that simply means to delay a running period of time set forth in the statute of limitations. Basically, in certain circumstances, a party may be able to file despite the statute of limitations running out.   

In mid-March, when COVID-19 surged throughout the northeastern states, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (SJC) ordered that all civil and criminal statutes were tolled starting March 17th of this year. In subsequent updates, the SJC tolled the deadline of all civil statute of limitations to June 30th and tolled the statute of limitations for all criminal statute of limitations to September 30th due to the restrictions of grand juries. As the SJC explains, if a person had 7 days left before the statute of limitations ran out on March 17th, for a civil statute, 7 days will remain starting July 1st, and for a criminal statute, 7 days will remain beginning on September 30th.

How the Tolling of Deadlines Affects the Dangerousness Statute During COVID-19

The dangerousness statute, as governed by G.L.c. 276 § 58A, is when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can move for a dangerousness hearing, which would require an immediate detention of a person without the possibility of bail for up to 120 days. The statute lays out that felonies such as possession of a weapon or a machine gun, the use or attempted use of physical force against another, or violation of an abuse prevention order, are grounds for the Commonwealth to move for a dangerousness hearing.

It is important to note that the defendant (or the person accused of committing the crime) is entitled to a hearing, and it is the job of the Commonwealth to prove by clear and convincing evidence that there is no form of release that is suitable, and a pretrial detention is necessary to ensure the safety of a particular individual and/or the public. For more information on Tolling of Deadlines in Massachusetts, contact attorney Matos at 508-206-9334.