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Clerk Magistrate Hearing

Judges Hammer


Have you been summoned to attend a Massachusetts Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing?  Our MA Clerk Magistrate Hearing Lawyer serving Bristol, Norfolk, and Plymouth Counties can help.

What is a clerk magistrate’s hearing?

A clerk magistrate’s hearing in Massachusetts is an informal meeting in the clerk’s office or a courtroom in the District Courts in Massachusetts. A judge does not supervise the hearing. The clerk magistrate of the court oversees the proceeding. The clerk magistrate is an employee at the District Court who oversees the clerk’s office and has the authority to approve or deny an application for a criminal complaint. The hearing is designed to review the alleged facts in the complaint, usually brought by the police, to determine whether there is probable cause to charge the complaint in the criminal courtroom session. A clerk magistrate hearing is often the first step in the criminal charging process.

A clerk magistrate’s hearing is a good opportunity to learn about the charges and obtain a police report. Before the hearing, a Massachusetts clerk magistrate’s hearing attorney can decide whether it would help to investigate and prepare witnesses for the hearing. At the hearing, the accused has an opportunity to give their side of the story at the hearing and ask the police questions about the accusations. An attorney for the accused can also speak on the accused’s behalf. The attorney can argue that the complaint does not contain probable cause and should be dismissed. Sometimes, even if there is probable cause, the attorney can negotiate a non-charging outcome that resolves the case at the clerk magistrate hearing without the complaint being charged in the criminal courtroom session. 

What to Expect From a Magistrate Hearing

A magistrate’s hearing in Massachusetts is a critical stage in the criminal justice process where a clerk magistrate reviews evidence presented by law enforcement to determine whether there is probable cause to issue criminal charges against the accused. These hearings typically occur in cases involving misdemeanor offenses, minor felonies, or applications for criminal complaints. 

During the hearing, the prosecution presents evidence — which may include witness testimony, police reports, and other relevant documentation — to support their case. The defendant and their attorney have the opportunity to challenge this evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and present their own evidence or witnesses to refute the allegations. The magistrate assesses the credibility and weight of the evidence presented and makes a decision based on whether there are grounds to proceed with criminal charges. 

If the magistrate finds probable cause, the case will move forward to arraignment in a higher court. However, if they determine there is insufficient evidence, the charges may be dismissed, sparing the accused from formal prosecution. It’s essential for individuals facing a magistrate’s hearing to be prepared with strong legal representation to effectively defend their rights and interests throughout this process.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Clerk Magistrate Hearings in MA?

Though it’s not legally required to have a lawyer for clerk magistrate hearings in Massachusetts, representation from a criminal defense lawyer can be beneficial. Clerk magistrate hearings are typically informal proceedings where individuals can contest a criminal complaint before it goes to court. Some reasons you might consider hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney for such hearings include:

Their Expert Legal Knowledge 

Lawyers are trained in the law and court procedures. They can provide valuable insights into the legal aspects of your case if you are charged with a crime.

They’ll Advocate on Your Behalf 

An attorney can advocate on your behalf, presenting your case in the best possible light and arguing for the dismissal of charges. Defenses may include saying the police officer had no probable cause to arrest you in the first place or that this is a case of mistaken identity. They will pursue a favorable resolution.

They Offer Procedural Guidance

 Navigating legal processes can be complex, and an attorney can guide you through the procedural requirements of the clerk’s hearings.

They Possess Superior Negotiation Skills 

Lawyers are skilled negotiators and may be able to negotiate a resolution with the opposing party or prosecutor, potentially securing a reduced sentence or avoiding formal charges.

They Can Develop a Legal Strategy 

A lawyer can help you develop a legal strategy tailored to your criminal case before the clerk’s hearing, taking into account your criminal history, the relevant laws, and any legal precedents.

While a person accused of a crime has the right to represent themself in a clerk magistrate hearing, the legal process can be complex. Having an experienced attorney by your side improves your chances of a successful outcome. Contact us today to discuss the specifics of your case with an attorney and determine the best course of action. We can represent you in front of the Massachusetts district court after you are charged with a crime.

Can You Get a Case Dismissed From a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?

Yes, it’s possible to get a case dismissed at a clerk magistrate hearing in Massachusetts. During the hearing, the clerk magistrate will review the evidence and listen to arguments from both sides regarding the criminal charge. This is why it is sometimes known as a “show cause hearing.”

These are serious proceedings and should be treated as such. To increase the chances of getting a case dismissed at a Massachusetts show cause hearing, your attorney will present evidence, legal arguments, and/or mitigating factors that may persuade the clerk magistrate not to issue a criminal complaint. Certain legal defenses may apply to your case. Your attorney can present these defenses, such as lack of intent, self-defense, not enough evidence, or other legal justifications.

Some common reasons for seeking dismissal include:

  • Lack of Sufficient Evidence: We’ll look deeper into all of your legal options. If there is insufficient evidence to support the charges, your attorney can argue that the case should not proceed.
  • Mistaken Identity: Don’t let yourself be found guilty and face jail time if someone else was responsible for the criminal complaints against you. If there is a case of mistaken identity, presenting evidence or witnesses that establish your innocence can be crucial.
  • Mitigating Circumstances: If there are mitigating circumstances that explain or excuse your actions, presenting these factors can be important in seeking dismissal.
  • Agreement with the Complainant: In some cases, reaching an agreement or restitution with the complainant may lead to a dismissal of the alleged crime.

If the clerk magistrate decides not to issue a criminal complaint, the charges will be dismissed. If a complaint is issued at this hearing, the criminal proceedings will move forward. This is why consulting with an attorney to assess the details of your case and develop a strategic approach before the clerk’s hearing is advisable. Don’t let formal criminal charges overwhelm and intimidate you. We’re here to advocate on your behalf.

The benefits of a pre-charging resolution.

A pre-charging resolution is an outstanding outcome because it keeps the charge off a person’s criminal record. The charge is not entered on a defendant’s criminal record until they are arraigned in the criminal court session before a judge. So, if you retain an attorney to attend the clerk magistrate’s hearing with you, the attorney might be able to obtain a result that keeps the charge from appearing on your record. Sometimes, this might mean doing community service, paying restitution, writing an apology letter, or agreeing to some other condition for a period.

If a favorable resolution or dismissal cannot be obtained, the other benefit to having an attorney at a clerk magistrate’s hearing is that you do not have to make any admissions or statements that can be used against you if the complaint is charged in the regular criminal session. The attorney will also likely have a head start on defending the case before the District Attorney’s office sees the complaint.

Every case is different and the outcome in every case depends on the facts and unique circumstances of the defendant. Talk to an experienced clerk magistrate’s hearing attorney to discuss the details of your case and what outcomes may be obtainable. 

A clerk magistrate’s hearing is required in certain misdemeanor cases. If you have been issued a summons for an “arraignment” but never received an opportunity to have a clerk magistrate’s hearing first, you may have grounds to ask that the arraignment be stopped so you can first have a clerk magistrate’s hearing. You should contact an experienced Massachusetts clerk magistrate hearing criminal defense attorney before your arraignment to see whether you should have been provided an opportunity for a clerk magistrate hearing.

Contact the Law Office of Brett V. Beaubian for Representation

While you may not see your upcoming clerk’s hearing as a “real” court date, we assure you that it is. Bringing an experienced defense attorney to a clerk magistrate’s hearing is crucial. Remember, these hearings can significantly impact the outcome of a case because they determine whether charges will be formally filed against you. An experienced attorney understands the nuances of the legal process and can skillfully present arguments and evidence to persuade the magistrate to dismiss the charges or mitigate their severity. Additionally, a seasoned defense attorney will cross-examine witnesses, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and ensure that the defendant’s rights are protected throughout the proceedings. At these hearings, an attorney’s expertise in navigating the complexities of Massachusetts law can make the difference between a favorable outcome and a poor one for the accused. Whether your upcoming hearing is regarding a simple misdemeanor, a crime involving bodily injury, or something in between, you want a lawyer fighting on your behalf.

If you have been summoned to appear at a clerk magistrate’s hearing in Massachusetts, call our experienced Massachusetts clerk magistrate’s hearing attorney to help you design the best defense possible. Attorney Beaubien has a track record of success at Massachusetts clerk magistrate’s hearings. His victories include dismissals and non-charging resolutions that have kept charges off his clients’ criminal records.
Arrange for a free case review with our clerk magistrate’s hearing attorney at The Law Office of Brett V. Beaubien by contacting us online or at (401) 246-8579 today. Hablamos español.  Also serving clients in Suffolk County & throughout Massachusetts.

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