Clerk Magistrate Hearings

In Massachusetts, the Clerk Magistrate Hearing, also referred to as a “probable cause hearing” or simply “clerks hearing,” is the legal process where an official of the court determines if probable cause exists to issue a criminal complaint after hearing a set of allegations usually outlined in the Application for Criminal Complaint and read into the record by a police officer. The hearing is the beginning of the legal process against a potential defendant where no arrest has occurred usually involving a misdemeanor criminal offense. Applications can be filed by the police or a private person.

Every year in Massachusetts hundreds of thousands of criminal complaints are issued by magistrates of the District Court resulting from these "show cause" hearings.  These important hearings in the criminal process are also governed by certain standards on complaint procedure.  The hearing itself is akin to a grand jury like process which determines if a person is to be charged as a defendant in a criminal case.  The process begins by way of  the Application for Complaint and the Complaint is a formal written notification containing a listing of the charge or charges sought against a defendant. The individual that signs the Complaint upon an oath is referred to as the "Complainant".  The Magistrate is the court official that is in charge of conducting the hearing and is the official authorized by our laws to issue process and authorize criminal complaints.  The hearings may also be conducted by Assistant Clerk Magistrates.

A person accused of a crime by the police or a private individual has the absolute right to bring their own criminal defense lawyer to this hearing to enforce important constitutional laws including the right to confront and question all witnesses present that appear at the hearing and to assert the client’s privilege to remain silent and not provide potentially incriminating evidence against himself. A skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is, therefore, critical at these hearings, not only for the legal training and knowledge of the criminal charge at issue, but also for the purpose of marketing the defendant to the court in order to invoke the discretion that clerk magistrates exercise not to issue a complaint in a given case, even if ample evidence exits to support one.

An experienced criminal defense attorney may also be able to avoid the issuance of a complaint against a client by negotiating an agreement with the other party or complainant prior to the hearing or by seeking what is referred to as an “accord and satisfaction” in the appropriate case. In reality, the clerk’s hearing is your opportunity with the right lawyer to avoid having to be arraigned on a criminal case and avoiding a criminal record and all of the negative consequences that flow from one including but not limited to loss of employment or job opportunities. Also, getting a lawyer involved early in the process at this level may help you avoid more expensive legal fees should the case proceed by way of a complaint in court.

Experienced and Successful Clerk Magistrate Hearing Lawyer

If you are accused of a crime and you have just received a summons from a court to appear for a Clerk Magistrate Hearing in Massachusetts, you should seriously consider hiring an attorney now with significant experience and a proven track record representing clients before the court rather than to “go it alone” or hire someone who doesn’t focus solely on defending those accused of crimes.

The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has been successfully protecting clients from the issuance of criminal complaints for over two decades and has experience with a variety of criminal offenses.  Attorney Patrick Murphy has challenged and won hundreds of cases at the clerk magistrate level throughout Massachusetts. Attorney Murphy provides a free and confidential telephone call or office visit to discuss the facts of your situation. Attorney Murphy offers reasonable rates for clerk magistrate hearings and you can reach him now at 617-367-0450 or by completing the email contacts tab on the website.

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