Clerk Magistrate Hearings
Clerk magistrate hearings are an alternative manner in which someone in Massachusetts can be charged with a crime. Clerk magistrate hearings, also called “show-cause” hearings, can occur after an arrest, or not. These show-cause hearings most often occur in cases in which the police officer did not actually witness the criminal activity. Therefore, instead of there being a typical arrest, the officer files a complaint with the Clerk of the District Court. A clerk magistrate hearing is scheduled during which the magistrate will determine if probable cause exists to issue a criminal charge.
The following two cases making local headlines recently illustrate the concept of a clerk magistrate’s hearing:
In one Massachusetts town, three residents were caught on tape causing over $2,800 in damages to a neighboring homeowner’s property. The homeowners turned their surveillance video over to local police officers but declined to file a complaint. Police have now requested a clerk magistrate hearing to determine whether probable cause exists to press charges against the three individuals.
Meanwhile, in another Massachusetts town, a clerk magistrate’s hearing has been scheduled for the the seventeen year old driver of a vehicle involved in a fatal pedestrian accident over Labor Day weekend. The teen driver, who struck and killed a man walking his dog after his vehicle lost control, will face possible charges of operating a vehicle negligently with a death resulting, speeding, and failure to stay in marked lanes. At the clerk magistrate’s hearing, the magistrate will determine whether there is probable cause to issue a criminal complaint.Initiation of a Clerk Magistrate Hearing
A clerk magistrate hearing is initiated when someone, generally a police officer but not always, files an Application for Criminal Complaint with the Clerk of the District Court. In this document, the complainant (individual making the allegations) asserts that the respondent (person being accused) committed a certain crime or crimes. It is important to note that the respondent is not a criminal defendant--at least not yet. The respondent will only become a criminal defendant if formal charges are filed following the hearing.
After the filing of the complaint, a clerk magistrate hearing is then scheduled and notice is sent to the respondent in the mail. Notices typically arrive through regular mail, so often individuals receiving them do not understand the seriousness of the matter. They may think they are merely being asked to come down to the clerk’s office to correct a minor misunderstanding. This is simply not the case--- the clerk magistrate’s hearing is a critical step towards either the initiation of criminal proceedings, or the end to any legal worries.What Should I Expect at a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?
At the clerk magistrate hearing, the complainant is given the opportunity to present their version of the events, as set out in their Application for Criminal Complaint. Typically the complainant is a police force member, so the hearing will involve the arresting police officer or police prosecutor taking the stand and presenting their side of the incident. Additional witnesses may be called to the stand. You then have the right to testify on your behalf.
After hearing the testimony presented by both sides, the clerk magistrate will determine if probable cause exists to support the allegations set out in the Criminal Complaint. If the probable cause standard is met, the complaint will be accepted and formal criminal charges will issue. The clerk magistrate may, in the alternative, decide to hold the complaint for a specified period of time. this is most often done when the respondent does not have a criminal history. If the respondent does not appear before the clerk magistrate on any additional summons during that time, the complaint will be administratively dismissed-- which means it will not become a part of your record. If the clerk magistrate does not find probable cause exists to support the allegations, then the complaint is dismissed and will not lead to criminal charges or appear on your record.Top Two Facts You Need to Know if You are Facing a Clerk Magistrate Hearing
If you are facing a clerk magistrate hearing, you need to know the following two facts:
1. The Clerk Magistrate Hearing is a Crucial Stage of Proceedings-- even though you have not been formally charged with a crime, you need to take the clerk magistrate hearing very seriously. The clerk magistrate hearing is your opportunity to ensure no criminal charges are issued against you. It is also a critical opportunity to gather the facts concerning the prosecution’s potential case against you. A finding of probable cause at the clerk magistrate hearing will result in criminal charges being lodged against you, which can lead to jail time, fines and fees, and lifetime consequences of a conviction on your record. As you can see, the clerk magistrate hearing is not something to take lightly.The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman Can Help
2. You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to Represent You-- having a skilled Boston criminal defense attorney represent you at the clerk magistrate hearing is not just recommend, it is necessary. An experienced clerk magistrate hearing attorney understands the nuances of the probable cause standard and the clerk magistrate hearing process. A skilled Boston defense attorney can advise you as to whether or not you should testify, which can make a difference to the finding of probable cause. He or she can also advocate on your behalf that the criminal complaint be held and eventually dismissed. The assistance of a well versed criminal defense attorney is your absolute best defense against ever facing formal criminal charges.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has successfully handled countless clerk magistrate hearings. We understand the seriousness of a clerk magistrate hearing and will fight aggressively for you to avoid any sort of criminal charges. Further, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the hearing, we will use the hearing as an opportunity to discover the weaknesses in the prosecution's potential case, so we can zealously attack their case right from the start. Stephen Neyman will fight tirelessly to protect your legal rights and provide you the best chance to avoid criminal prosecution. Call Stephen Neyman today at (617) 263-6800 for a free phone consultation.
Si usted habla español contacta a nuestro asistente de abogado Maria Rivera en 617-877-6270.
Quincy District Court: Application for Complaint Charging Vandalizing Property Does Not Issue Following Clerk Magistrate Hearing
On January 18, 2017 members of the Braintree, Massachusetts police department were called to a crime scene after a report of a fight and several individuals damaging a motor vehicle. They interviewed the victim who stated that he and his girlfriend had an argument that resulted in the couple breaking up. The girlfriend is the sister of the defendant. Shortly after the argument, the complainant witnessed the defendant and two others destroy his car tires and windows. The police contacted the sister who admitted to the breakup and added that the complainant had hit her several times. Believing this to be the motive for the car damage the officers confronted the defendant and his friends, all of whom admitted to destroying the car. They were charged with vandalism, G.L. c. 266 Section 126A. Attorney Neyman was hired. Today, after a clerk magistrate hearing the application for criminal complaint was denied. No charges were filed against our client.
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Dedham District Court: Complaint for Malicious Destruction to Property Over $250 Does Not Issue
Members of the Needham, Massachusetts police department were notified that a group of young men were driving around town cutting down street signs with a hacksaw. Their investigation led them to our client, a young college student. The officer confronted the man with their information and obtained a full confession. An application for a complaint for malicious destruction to property over $250 issued. This is a felony under G.L. c. 266 Section 127. Today, Attorney Neyman convinced the clerk magistrate not to issue the complaint.
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Somerville District Court: Application for Complaint Charging Breaking and Entering and Malicious Destruction to Property Does Not Issue
On October 23, 2016 Somerville Police Officers were dispatched to an apartment for a report of a breaking and entering under G.L. c. 266 Section 16A and malicious destruction to property over $250 in violation of G.L. c. 266 Section 127. Both of these charges are felonies in Massachusetts. The officers extensive investigation led them to the defendant. When questioned about the crimes the defendant admitted to her actions. Fortunately, the compassionate officer issued a summons for a clerk magistrate hearing rather than issuing a criminal complaint. Attorney Neyman represented the accused at this proceeding. He was able to convince the clerk magistrate not to issued the complaints.
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