What Happens at a Massachusetts Clerk Magistrate Hearing

In some criminal cases in Massachusetts, a clerk magistrate hearing or show cause hearing is conducted to determine if there are enough grounds to issue a criminal complaint against an alleged perpetrator. To initiate this hearing, a private person or police officer must file an application to ask the court to issue such a complaint. Since this occurs before the issuance of a criminal complaint, the hearing provides the respondent with the chance to avoid a criminal charge or conviction. Clerk magistrate hearings should be taken seriously and a respondent should put on a solid case by hiring a Massachusetts clerk magistrate lawyer. If you must attend a clerk magistrate hearing, you will be notified by the court and given a copy of the application. 

What to Expect During a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?

The court’s clerk magistrate presides over the show cause hearing. In general, this hearing is held in the clerk’s office, not a courtroom. As a respondent in this hearing, you can bring a lawyer with you during this event. Also, you can use this hearing to share your account of what happened, but your attorney may or may not advise this. You can bring related evidence and witnesses to testify at the hearing. 

In addition, the alleged victim will also get a notice of this hearing and may attend it to testify or bring witnesses to give testimony. If the applicant was sought by a police officer, they can appear at the hearing to testify or read the police report. 

Generally, this hearing is not recorded and evidence like hearsay is allowed. Once the clerk hears the evidence, they will determine if there is probable cause to think that a criminal offense was committed. If the clerk thinks there is probable cause, they will issue a complaint that charges you with a crime. Then, a criminal case will be opened and your arraignment will be initiated. You will be officially informed about the charges against you and asked to make a plea. You cannot appeal the decision of the clerk to issue a criminal complaint against you. Usually, you can try to have your case dismissed following your arraignment and the opening of your case. 

Should You Hire an Attorney?

A clerk magistrate hearing is your opportunity to eliminate the case against you before you face formal criminal charges that will be in your permanent record. When you attend the hearing, you need to convince the clerk that there isn’t enough evidence of your commission of the alleged crime. An attorney understands all the elements of this crime and how pieces of evidence relate to it. They can educate you about the pros and cons of testifying for yourself at this hearing.