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  • Matthew W. Peterson

What is a Clerk Magistrate Hearing in Massachusetts?

Updated: Mar 13



A clerk-magistrate hearing (also known as clerk's hearing, probable cause hearing, or show cause hearing) is an excellent way to avoid the criminal process altogether. If you have been given notice of a clerk-magistrate hearing, it's important to hire a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney immediately to help you gather evidence.

I have done dozens of clerk-magistrate hearings as a Harvard Defender, where I was successful in getting many people's charges dismissed.

When am I entitled to a Clerk-Magistrate Hearing?

If you are charged with a misdemeanor and not arrested, you will generally receive notice to appear for a clerk-magistrate hearing.

Do I have to show up for a Clerk-Magistrate Hearing?

You do not have to show up, but it would be a mistake not to appear. A clerk-magistrate hearing can allow you to find out what the Commonwealth's evidence is, and the magistrate can dismiss the charges, meaning it would not be on your record. It's critical to appear and hire a lawyer for a clerk-magistrate hearing.

Do I need a lawyer for Clerk-Magistrate Hearing?

In short, yes. A lawyer can help you avoid the charges completely - meaning they're off of your record completely - or at least gather evidence to help prepare for your defense. If you received a summons for a clerk-magistrate hearing, it's important to contact a Massachusetts criminal lawyer immediately.

What happens in a Clerk-Magistrate Hearing?

The procedure differs per court, but generally, a police officer or witness testifies. You can also choose to present evidence. The magistrate can either choose to issue the complaint or not issue the complaint. The magistrate can choose not to issue a complaint even if there's probable cause.

Generally, it is not advisable for you to testify at a clerk-magistrate hearing because this can be used against you later if the complaint issues. You should allow your attorney to speak for you.

There are also other options the magistrate can do, such as continue the case for a period of time and dismiss it if there are no further problems.

If the complaint is issued, you will be sent to district court for an arraignment.

Contact me now if you have been given a summons for a clerk-magistrate hearing. I'd be glad to help!


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