In Massachusetts, police may request the court to charge a person with a crime, though they have not made an arrest. The police file an application for a criminal charge with the Clerk Magistrate of the district court. The Clerk Magistrate then notifies the individual who is to be charged, and a hearing is scheduled.
The Clerk Magistrate hearing (sometimes referred to as a “Clerk’s hearing” or a “show cause hearing”) is usually less formal than traditional court hearings, and may take place in a conference room rather than a courtroom. Also, the rules of evidence that govern trials do not apply in Clerk Magistrate hearings. Clerk Magistrate hearings happen in both District and Juvenile Court.
However, a lack of formality in the hearing does not mean that it is unimportant. In fact, it can be critical.
The Clerk Magistrate hearing is the police’s opportunity to present the Clerk Magistrate with information about the case. The person the police want charged with a crime has the opportunity to present evidence why he should not be charged, and may be represented by an attorney. The Clerk Magistrate considers the evidence presented by both sides and decides whether probable cause to issue charges exists. If probable cause is found, the person will be charged and an arraignment date set. If no probable cause is found, there will be no formal charges, and the case ends there.
Yes. The Clerk Magistrate hearing is your chance not only to prevent charges from being filed against you, but to prevent the public from learning about the situation that led to the possibility of charges in the first place. If probable cause is found by the Clerk Magistrate and your case proceeds to a judge, the application for charges against you becomes public record. If no probable cause is found, it never does. If you have an existing criminal record, the charges will not appear on it.
Contrast this to the risk to your reputation, job, peace of mind and freedom if charges do go forward . The expression, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true in law as well as medicine. The help of a skilled, experienced attorney is invaluable at this critical time in your case. The Clerk Magistrate hearing is not the time to skimp on representation
If you have received notice of a Clerk Magistrate hearing, contact attorney Henry Fasoldt immediately for a consultation. He will explain the process, review your options with you, and do everything possible to make sure the charges the police are seeking die in the conference room where the Clerk Magistrate hearing takes place.