What Is Probable Cause at a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?
Probable cause at a Clerk Magistrate, or show cause, hearing is the legal standard (the lowest in the country) that determines whether it is more likely than not that a thing happened. Think of it as a 51% likelihood. The clerk is not looking for guilt associated with the crime; he’s just looking for whether or not it is likely that a crime occurred.
Who Is Eligible to Have Their Case Heard at a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?
You are entitled to have a Clerk Magistrate hearing, or a show cause hearing, if you’re only being accused of misdemeanor offenses and were not arrested. If you are being accused of felony offenses but were not arrested, it would be up to the police’s discretion whether or not you should get a show cause hearing. That’s usually indicated on the Massachusetts uniform citation that is given to you by the police. Overall, it is a right of the defendant to receive a hearing if they have not been arrested and are only being accused of misdemeanor offenses; they can also receive a hearing if the police request one, but only if they have not been arrested.
If You Can Prevent a Complaint From Being Issued at the Show Cause Hearing, Is It True That the Person Accused Will Not Have a Criminal Record of Those Charges?
That is true. A clerk’s hearing is pre-arraignment, and an entry on a criminal record is not made until the person is arraigned. Because the clerk’s hearing happens before arraignment in a closed hearing, it is not a matter of public record. Even the police report at the clerk’s hearing is still not public record, so if a case can be resolved at the clerk’s hearing stage, then nothing will become public record. If anyone asks about your record or if your history comes up in regards to school, housing, or work, you can legally respond as if the incident never occurred.
As the Defense Attorney, What Are Possible Strategies That Can Be Used at a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?
I’ve handled hundreds of these types of hearings, the incidents ranging from shoplifting and other minor misdemeanor offenses to some pretty serious felony offenses, including offenses that would have serious consequences for people’s professional licenses and housing situations, plus other criminal record ramifications. We always come up with defenses and strategies that are personalized to the clients. We win a grand majority of these hearings: over 90%. Not every case can be won, but the Clerk Magistrate stage is an excellent opportunity to do the most amount of good for the client’s case. At the very least, even if the case can’t be won at that stage, we can gain information for the case that is to come and prepare for the arraignment that will follow.
What Can an Attorney Do at a Magistrate Hearing That I Can’t Do on My Own?
The important thing to note about having an attorney present is that it makes a huge difference having someone else advocate for you. A third-party advocate will sound different to someone’s ears. If you’re accused of a crime and claim either you didn’t do it or the situation wasn’t as bad as presented, another person is automatically uninclined to believe you; but when you have a third party there saying the same thing, especially when that person is an attorney, it makes those words have more weight and sound more believable.
Also, attorneys understand this type of situation better than a layperson. Having been here many times before, we know how to read the room, we’re probably familiar with the clerk, and we have different strategies for dealing with different types of cases, whether it be a traffic or a property damage case. Overall, an attorney can be far more effective in speaking for you than you can typically speak for yourself.
For more information on Clerk Magistrate Hearings in Massachusetts, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (617) 718-5550 today.
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