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.
Charges of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors Filed Against Medical Professional Do Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing
The defendant is well known in the medical field working at a prestigious Boston Hospital. In late June of this year the defendant hosted a high school graduation party for one of her children. After a neighbor complained of excessive the police made an appearance to settle things down. When they arrived they observed people in the yard carrying open beer cans. Officers believed that many of the people at the party were under the age of 21 and they were able to confirm the names and ages of some. They contacted the homeowner and gave a warning about the situation and advising that no one who had been drinking leave the home. About one and one half hours later the police stopped an Uber driving for speeding and observed an underaged person in the car obviously intoxicated. The officers learned that this person had just come from that home. They returned to the defendant's home and advised that charges under G.L. c. 138 Section 34 would issue. In fact, the homeowner was charged with furnishing alcohol to minors. Attorney Neyman was hired to represent the defendant at the hearing. No charges will issued.
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Felony Malicious Destruction of Property Complaint Does Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing
On May 25, 2018 police were called for a report of an intoxicated male damaging cars in an apartment building parking lot. Witnesses said the suspect had pulled a bicycle rack off of a car and kick the side of the car causing damage. The officers located the defendant's wallet at the scene. The next day officers went back to the apartment complex to watch some security video footage. They were able to see the defendant commit the act mentioned above. In addition, the security footage showed the defendant damaging washers and dryers in the laundry room of the building. The defendant was arrested and charged with malicious destruction to property over $1,200, a felony in Massachusetts. This is a violation of G.L. c. 266 Section 127. A clerk magistrate hearing was scheduled for today. Attorney Neyman was able to convince the police department and clerk magistrate not to issue a complaint.
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No Charges Issue Against Student Accused of Procuring Alcohol For Persons Under 21
The defendant is a local high school student. A few weeks ago her parents were out of town. She had a party. The party got out of control. One of the guests, a fifteen year old, became sick from drinking an excessive amount of alcohol. Fortunately, one of the attendees called the paramedics who took the student to the hospital. In the meantime, learning of the problem the police arrived. They investigated and charged with minor with procuring alcohol for persons under 21, a violation of G.L. c. 138 Section 134. A clerk magistrate hearing was held today. Attorney Neyman was able to convince the clerk magistrate not to issue the complaint.
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