A Clerk Magistrate Hearing gives you the opportunity to prevent criminal charges from being filed against you. Hiring an attorney to represent you at this type of hearing can save you thousands in attorney's fees and numerous trips to court because in many cases an attorney can keep you from being charged with a crime.
A Clerk's hearing begins when the police or a victim fills out an Application for Criminal Complaint. You will then receive a notice in the mail telling you to appear in court on a certain date and time. The notice will inform you that there will be a hearing and that you have the chance to be heard at the hearing. Most hearings involve criminal charges that are misdemeanors such as shoplifting, assault and battery, and leaving the scene of an accident. However, some hearings can involve more serious charges such as vehicular homicide.
By contacting an attorney when you receive the notice, we can step in, explain the process and develop a strategy for the best way to handle your case. We at Sweeney & Associates, LLC, have extensive knowledge and expertise representing clients at Clerk Magistrate Hearings throughout Massachusetts. Often, even if you have committed the crime that's charged, the case can be resolved at this hearing without any need for an arraignment in front of a judge.
Contact us today if you need experienced representation for your clerk magistrate hearing.
What Is a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?
A Clerk Magistrate Hearing in Massachusetts, also referred to as a Clerk's Hearing or Show-Cause Hearing, is a hearing held by a clerk or assistant clerk magistrate to decide whether probable cause exists for the clerk to believe you committed a crime. Probable cause is a very low standard and only requires that a reasonable person believe the crime could have been committed.
Application for a Criminal Complaint in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, an application for a criminal complaint can be filed by a police officer or private citizen. The application contains a description of the alleged crime and the facts supporting it. After the application is filed, you will receive a notice by mail with the date and time of the Clerk Magistrate Hearing.
What Happens at the Hearing?
- At the hearing, a police officer, known as a police prosecutor, will read the police report to the clerk. The application consists mainly of this police report but victims and witnesses can also testify at the hearing.
- After the police prosecutor has presented his or her case, you are given the opportunity to cross-examine the officer or anyone else who testified. The information gleaned from cross-examination is often crucial to whether the application will be allowed or denied. You also have the opportunity to present your side of the case, but you are under oath and are better served by having an attorney represent you and your side of the story so that you can preserve your right to remain silent and not give facts that can hurt you.
- An experienced attorney can end the court case for you at this hearing, so that a criminal complaint does not issue against you. Every case is different and the facts of each case need to be evaluated to determine whether you should testify at the hearing. We always remind our clients that anything said at a clerk's hearing can be used against them in a later prosecution.
- After hearing testimony from both sides, the clerk will decide whether enough evidence exists to show you committed a crime. If the clerk finds probable cause exists, then you will be charged with the crime, and a criminal case will proceed against you.
- The clerk has another option, which is to leave the case open for a period of time — generally three-12 months. If no new charges are filed against you, then at the end of that period of time, the case will be dismissed, and you will not have to appear in front of the judge at an arraignment.
What if Probable Cause Does Not Exist?
If the clerk finds that probable cause does not exist, then the Application for a Criminal Complaint will be denied. If the application is denied, then the case is over, you will not face any criminal charges, and the charges will not appear on your criminal record.
What Do I Do if I Receive a Notice?
At Sweeney &Associates, LLC, we have discovered that when someone receives a notice to appear at a clerk's hearing, he or she handles it in a couple of different ways. The first approach is to simply ignore the notice and not show up at the hearing. That's a huge mistake. If you do not show up, the clerk almost always issues the Complaint which means you will be charged with a crime, need to hire an attorney, and will be arraigned on the criminal charges.
The second approach is to represent yourself. Since the notice is mailed from the clerk's office and is often not received until weeks and sometimes months after the crime was committed, people often mistakenly believe that the magistrate hearing is more of a nuisance and can be easily dealt with. Approaching a clerk's hearing in this manner will likely have the same result as the first approach: being charged with a crime and needing to hire an attorney.
The best way to handle a notice for a Clerk Magistrate's Hearing is to hire an experienced, well-qualified Quincy attorney from Sweeney and Associates, LLC. We have represented hundreds of clients at these hearings. We determine what the best defense will be based on the individual facts and circumstances of each case.
We are often able to reach out to the parties involved before the hearing to resolve outstanding issues, or we are able to reach an agreeable solution at the clerk's hearing. Our goal is always to achieve the best result for each client and avoid you being criminally charged.
We know how important these hearings are, so if you have received a notice, contact Sweeney & Associates, LLC, today before you appear in court.
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