Clerk Magistrate Hearings
In Massachusetts, a clerk magistrate hearing is a hearing given when an individual attempts to take out a private criminal complaint against another person or when the police officer does not witness the criminal conduct that gives rise to the charge. Common criminal charges in Massachusetts where clerk magistrate hearings are allowed include:
- Assault and battery;
- Negligent operation of a motor vehicle
- Leaving the Scene of property damage
- Shoplifting and Larceny
- OUI charge involving an accident where the motorist is taken to the hospital.
A common situation would be a neighbor accuses you of assault and battery. The police did not witness the assault and battery, but the neighbor goes to the police and says “press criminal charges; my neighbor just struck me”.
In a situation like that, the individual will be instructed to go to the clerk and take out a complaint for a cost of $15.00. The case will then be set up for a magistrate hearing which will allow you to present your side of the story or to oppose the issue to the criminal complaint.
OUI Clerk Magistrate Hearings: A clerk magistrate hearing would be allowed in an OUI case involving an accident where you were taken to the hospital and the police did not arrest you for OUI at the scene.
Leaving the Scene of Property Damage: A magistate hearing would be allowed in this type of case when someone clams you sturck their car and your plate is given to the police as the car leaving the scene of the accident.
The magistrate will then hear the evidence and decide whether there is enough probable cause to issue the criminal complaint. A magistrate hearing is only allowed in misdemeanor offenses and is not permitted in felony offenses.
- Magistrate Hearing in Negligent Operation and Leaving the Scene Charges.
If your case is scheduled for a magistrate hearing, you should hire an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer immediately.
One of the reasons is that this is a great opportunity to potentially have the case resolved prior to the case being brought into court, you being arraigned and it appearing on your criminal record. If you have little or no record, some magistrates may not issue the complaint for more practical reasons, such as it is a relatively weak case or you have no record and the magistrate wants to assure that you keep your record clean. In some cases there are ways to resolve a case at a magistrate level to appease all parties.
These opportunities for resolving a case can be explored by a criminal defense lawyer. In some cases the magistrate may agree to continue the matter for a certain period of time and if you do not incur anymore criminal charges will agree to dismiss the matter and not issue the complaint.
There are many practical ways to resolve a case at a magistrate level that can be explored. Also, in some cases it can be pointed out to the magistrate that there is not sufficient probable cause to even issue the criminal complaint. A magistrate hearing occurs before the case gets brought to court. They are informal, you are not before a judge, but you are before a clerk magistrate of the district court.
This clerk magistrate has considerable authority in deciding whether or not to issue the complaint. Accordingly you should always treat these court appearances as if you were appearing before a judge, as a magistrate has many of the same powers as a judge and often the magistrates take a very practical approach to these hearings. If you have any questions about a criminal magistrate hearing in Massachusetts feel free to call or send an email. You can reach me at 508-455-4755 or 781-686-5924.
If you received notice for the court of a clerk’s hearing, you should contact a lawyer immediately to begin preparing your defense. Attorney DelSignore will explain to you how the hearing will be conducted and what you can expect will occur at the hearing.
While a clerk’s hearing is not recorded, statements you make a clerk’s hearing can and will be used against you in court. It is crucial to have a lawyer to speak on your behalf and fight to prevent criminal charges from being brought to court.
Attorney DelSignore is available for an immediate free consultation and will help you with your case. Even if your hearing is scheduled within a few days, Attorney DelSignore can assist you in preparing your defense.