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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
  • Charges of Possession of Class B and Class C Drug Against Master Electrician do Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    Our client is a master electrician who lives in another state. This past February he was in Massachusetts on vacation staying at a resort casino. He and his wife had an abundance of drugs they intended to enjoy during their stay. They ingested some LSD. Apparently the LSD was bad. The wife became very sick and the husband, our client, called 911. Police and paramedics arrived. The wife was taken to the hospital. Our client was interviewed by the police. He admitted to taking the drugs. Officers then saw, in plain view, other drugs. Our client was summonsed for possession of a class B drug, G.L. c. 94C section 34 and possession of a class C drug, also in violation of G.L. c. 94 C section 34. Today we appeared for a clerk magistrate hearing. Our argument that our client availed himself of the Good Samaritan law prevailed and the complaint did not issue. 

    Read More in Drug Crimes

  • Charges of Breaking and Entering and Felony Larceny Over $1,200 Against Garage Owner do Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    In February of this year a man walked into a police station complaining that our client broke into his home and stole several thousand dollars worth of personal items. The police investigated the matter. They located the items in a car being driven by our client. Officers inquired about the origin of the property and he claimed that it belonged to him. The officers requested permission to look closely at the goods. Our client permitted them to do so. When it became apparent that the items had been stolen our client was identified and summonsed for a clerk magistrate hearing charging him with larceny from a building, G.L. c. 266 section 20A and breaking and entering in the daytime under G.L. c. 266 section 18. He was also charged with threats under G.L. c. 275 section 2 for supposedly telling the victim that if he said anything he would come back and kill him. Today, we convinced the clerk magistrate not to issue the complaint. 

    Read More in Theft Crimes

  • Charges of False or Misuse of a Driver's License or ID do Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    Several weeks ago members of an urban police department were conducting operations targeting establishments that serve alcohol to underaged people, particularly college students. Officers entered a bar known to serve students and obtained an driver's license from someone they suspected of being under the age of 21. The officers were correct in their observations and charged our client with a violation of G.L. c. 138 section 34B. This is a form of driver's license fraud. We were able to convince the magistrate not to issue a complaint. All charges were dismissed. 

    Read More in Clerk Magistrate Hearings 

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