Clerk Magistrate Hearings
Clerk Magistrate Hearing is an alternative way of charging a person with a crime and is also called “show-cause” hearing. When a crime was not witnessed first-hand, the police instead of arresting the accused files a complaint with the District Court Clerk. During this hearing, the Magistrate Clerk determines if the case should be issued with a criminal charge as is usually requested by the police.
At Singh Law4U, we routinely represent people in clerk-magistrate’s or “show cause” hearings in the Massachusetts criminal courts. We can help you take advantage of the “show cause” and prevent a criminal case from being filed against you. This is an extremely important notice that should be treated very seriously and countered with the help of a competent reply.
Very often people remain under the incorrect impression that the clerk magistrate hearing is just a call to clear a misunderstanding about an event. Consequently, they end up risking being charged with a criminal case that they have to defend.
What happens during a clerk magistrate or show-cause hearing?
The hearing is held in the clerk’s office designated for it, are less formal and are not recorded. The person seeking persecution (usually the police) has to present a “probable cause” and “reasonably trustworthy” evidence that will convince a reasonable person that a crime has been committed. The “probable cause” can be very low key and only has to convince the clerk magistrate of the crime. This is where the danger and the trick lie.
- First Possibility If the clerk magistrate is convinced that a cause exists, she/he will issue a complaint charging you with the crime. This will result in a criminal case being opened against you and you will be arraigned. From this point onwards, all public records of the case will be generated and if found guilty, you will have to face the penalties.
The worst part about being charged with a criminal offense is that even if the case is dismissed after you are found not guilty, you will have to answer in the positive any time you are asked if you were ever pressed with a criminal charge!
Once the clerk magistrate issues a complaint, there is no possibility of an appeal against it. The first opportunity that you get to appeal and dismiss the case is after you’ve been arraigned and the case has been opened. Going by the records, you already have a criminal case against your name!
- Second Possibility
If the clerk magistrate is not convinced of a “probable cause”, she/he will dismiss the complaint and there will be no public record generated against you. However, the complaint bringing up the charges has the right to appeal to a judge for redetermination. The judge then examines the case and makes a decision. The judge will also decide whether to consider materials presented to the clerk magistrate or entertain more and newer material and evidence.
- Third Possibility
The third option is that the clerk magistrate decides to “hold” the charge application for a certain time period ranging between six months to a year. If there are no more allegations after this period, the application will be dismissed. In such a case, you will not have any public record of a criminal charge being brought against you.