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.

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. You must mail in the summons to the court within four days so that a clerk magistrate hearing will be scheduled. If it is already beyond the four days, you should still send the summons in as in some cases the clerk will still assign the matter for hearing.

Leaving the Scene of Property Damage: A Clerk Magistrate hearing would be allowed in this type of case when someone clams you struck 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 for 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.

  • Reasons to hire a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer for a Clerk Magistrate Hearing:
    1. Have the case dismissed before you are formally charged and it appears on your criminal record;
    2. Often, a magistrate hearing is an opportunity for a practical solution with the magistrate, prosecuting police department is the district attorney’s office is not involved at this early stage.
    3. In some cases, there may be an agreement to continue the matter for a period of time with the understanding that if the individual incurs no further difficulty with the law, the case will be dismissed.
    4. Some cases may get dismissed on completing a program, such as the Brains At Risk Program, that addresses the concerns that triggered the charges being brought before the clerk of the court.

A clerk magistrate hearing could be scheduled as a result of a private complaint.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Questions regarding a clerk magistrate hearing in Massachusetts

If you have any questions about a criminal magistrate hearing in Massachusetts feel free to call or send an email through this website. You can reach me on my cell phone at 508-455-4755 or 781-686-5924.