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Clerk Magistrate Hearings

Representation You can Count on at 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.
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 can Help

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.

Case Results » Clerk Magistrate Hearings
  • Violation of Restraining Order Application Does Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    Our client was served with a 209A restraining order by his estranged wife. He did not contest the order. Several months later he received a notice for a clerk magistrate hearing in the mail. He retained Stephen Neyman to represent him. We obtained a copy of the police report which stated that after the restraining order was issued our client terminated his wife's cell phone service in violation of the 209A order. Our office investigated the case. We accumulated text messages from the wife to our client indicating her desire to have the service terminated so that she could get an account separate from our client's. In essence, she had lied to the police when making her complaint. We presented this information to the clerk magistrate at the hearing and convinced him not to issue a criminal complaint. No probable cause was found. 

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  • Charges of Assault and Battery Against Local Actor do not Issue After Contested Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    The defendant is an actor from Massachusetts. He now lives in Southern California. In May of this year he was visiting friends and family. A local bar was rented out for the event. Much of the evening was spent outside of the bar in an attached tent. A passerby started yelling at the man making lewd comments about his girlfriend. The defendant left the tent area to confront the man. After a brief argument the actor punched the man several times in the face. The police arrived. A summons for a clerk magistrate charging assault and battery under G.L. c. 265 Section 13A was issued to our client. Attorney Stephen Neyman represented the defendant at the clerk's hearing. After a contentious hearing the magistrate ruled that no complaint would issue. If anything, the "victim" was the aggressor and if charges were to issue they would issue against him. The case was dismissed. 

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  • Charges of Domestic Assault and Battery Do Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    Several weeks ago police in a suburban Boston city responded to a call from a man who had allegedly struck his roommate. The man and roommate had been arguing for weeks. On this occasion the situation turned physical. The two had been arguing over respecting each other's space in the apartment. After an exchange of insults our client struck the victim in the face and head area several times causing injury. The police arrived to observe the tail end of the altercation. The defendant was given a summons for a clerk magistrate hearing charging domestic assault and battery in violation of G.L. c. 265 section 13M. Today, Attorney Stephen Neyman convinced the magistrate not to issue a complaint. The matter was dismissed. 

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