A Clerk Magistrate’s hearing in Massachusetts has serious consequences, but it also presents a rare opportunity to, occasionally, prevent one from being charged with a crime in the first place. An experienced attorney can make all the difference in the world here in either deflecting the charge altogether or to having a potential serious charge changed to a more minor one.
In Massachusetts, if another private citizen or business wants to charge you with a misdemeanor or the police wish to do the same to a crime they didn’t witness, an application for a criminal complaint may be filed with the office of the court clerk. Frequently, cases such as shoplifting, vandalism and minor assaults are handled through a at such hearings. A clerk will notify you of the hearing date where you can bring evidence or witnesses. The hearing is generally rather informal, often in the clerk’s office and a judge is not involved. At the hearing, it will be determined by the clerk whether there is probable cause that a crime may have been committed. To restate this, a clerk’s hearing is not like a trial where your guilt must be proven… it is only to find whether there is enough evidence there that merits charging a person with a crime.
It is vital, if possible, to avoid being charged with a crime in the first place. It is certainly far preferable than getting charged and then later having the case dropped and dismissed. Clerk’s hearings are not even recorded, so, if a criminal charge is not issued, there is no public record.
Sometimes an attorney can present strong legal reasons why the clerk should not have the accused criminally charged at all. Other times, even if the accused might be responsible for some minor wrongdoing, the attorney can reach out to the other parties and deflect the charges by having the parties come to some kind of agreement that doesn’t involve continuing the case into criminal court. This is particularly true when the accused may have led a good life until one incident such as a 65 year old person who has never before been in trouble with the law, but then shoplifts one time and is extraordinarily remorseful.
You need a very experienced attorney who understands the minor details and practices of a clerk’s hearing in order to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
If you need representation at a Clerk Magistrate’s hearing, contact Attorney Elikann for a 100 % private and confidential consultation at 617-742-9462.