Why You Need a Lawyer for a Clerk Magistrate Hearing
While many people assume that criminal activity of any sort will result in an immediate arrest and arraignment, this is not necessarily the case. In Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 218, the state has placed guidelines around this practice, meaning that police officers are limited in their ability to place you under arrest for certain misdemeanor-level offenses. If an officer does not observe you committing the offense firsthand but suspects you of wrongdoing, you may instead be asked to appear at a clerk magistrate hearing. Read on to learn more about these proceedings, as well as whether you should hire legal representation for this occasion.
What is a “Show Cause” Hearing?
Clerk magistrate hearings, often referred to as “show cause” or “probable cause” hearings, exist to ascertain whether there is sufficient cause for the issuance of a criminal complaint. There are two primary outcomes of these hearings: the magistrate may decide that no criminal complaint is warranted, or it may be determined that you will face criminal charges.
In a clerk magistrate hearing, you are not a criminal defendant – rather, at this stage, you are considered a respondent. You will receive a notice of the officer’s complaint and a date for the hearing via regular US mail. Many people make the mistake of overlooking the severity of these notices, but these hearings make the difference between criminal proceedings and the swift resolution of any legal issues – the way you choose to handle it matters a great deal.
The hearing itself will consist of the complainant – the officer in question – outlining their version of events. There will also be a time for you to defend yourself. Contrary to popular belief, the citing officer does not always need to be physically present in order to testify for a clerk magistrate hearing. In instances of civil violations, the police department may instead provide a copy of the citation or a police report as evidence against you. However, these citations are not conclusive, and events may be successfully contested by a legal professional on your behalf.
The Value of Legal Representation
In clerk magistrate hearings, the stakes are high. While this process is intimidating on the surface, with adequate representation, it is possible to walk away scot free. A seasoned criminal defense attorney will utilize their years of experience to identify weaknesses in the complainant’s accusations. Having a skilled lawyer on your side can make the difference between a criminal record and successful navigation of your clerk magistrate hearing. This representative will advocate on your behalf and can also advise you about specifics of the process, such as whether or not you should testify.
Every year, the state of Massachusetts sees hundreds of thousands of criminal complaints resulting from these hearings. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the importance of seeking counsel at this phase of the proceedings – they do not fully comprehend the weight of “show cause” hearings until it’s too late. A skilled, knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is the best asset you can have in this scenario.
Your Experienced Clerk Magistrate Hearing Lawyer
Have you received a summons to appear for a Boston clerk magistrate hearing? The legal team at Coughlin Law Group has represented countless people just like you. If you are accused of a crime, you need the highest quality representation available. Our seasoned trial lawyers are prepared to advocate on your behalf, protect your rights, and construct a concrete defense. Call (617) 758-8888 for your free consultation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.