Do I Need a Lawyer for a Clerk Magistrate Hearing in Massachusetts?

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor offense in MA, you have the right to a clerk magistrate hearing prior to the issuance of a criminal complaint. At this hearing, the clerk magistrate will examine the facts of your case to determine if a criminal complaint should be issued, or if you should pay fines or penalties. Many people incorrectly assume that because no criminal charges have been filed, it is unnecessary to have a lawyer present at a clerk magistrate hearing. With the help of a skilled Boston defense attorney, however, you have a much better chance of avoiding criminal charges than if you try to go it alone.

What Can I Expect at a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?

Clerk magistrate hearings are sometimes referred to as probable cause hearings because that is the point of the initial review of potential criminal charges – to determine if there is probable cause to file a criminal complaint. To lessen your chances of a negative outcome, familiarize yourself with the process below:

  • Do NOT arrive late; it is crucial that you arrive on the scheduled day and at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time.
  • Upon arrival, speak to the clerk to determine what you are supposed to do next. In some situations, there will be posted instructions, rather than a clerk.
  • Formal evidence rules do not apply to clerk magistrate hearings. Law enforcement may provide evidence supporting the charges against you, and you can provide evidence that supports your innocence. Helpful evidence includes witnesses or witness statements, pictures, and any supporting documentation.
  • In addition to providing evidence, you will be able to explain to the magistrate why you are not guilty.
  • Once you have had the opportunity to explain yourself and a chance to present your evidence, the magistrate will make a decision. If you were cited for a civil violation, you will not have a right to a jury trial. If, however, you were cited for a criminal violation and the magistrate finds probable cause, you will have the right to a trial by judge or jury.

As you can probably surmise, many factors can work against you during this process. On the other hand, many factors can work in your favor. With a knowledgeable MA defense attorney by your side, you have a substantially better chance of obtaining a favorable outcome. If you have no prior criminal history, the magistrate may put the case “on hold”, waiting to see if you run into further legal troubles or repeat the offense. More often than not, however, without the right legal representation, you might be headed to trial. Contact a Boston defense attorney today.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Premier Criminal Defense Law Firm

If you are scheduled to appear at a clerk magistrate hearing in MA, the experienced legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We will advise you on the best way to handle your unique situation and will be with you throughout the entire process. Don’t let a minor civil violation or exaggerated criminal charge cost you in fines, penalties, and time behind bars. For more than 50 years, our skilled attorneys have been protecting the rights of individuals who have been charged with all types of crimes. It is our goal to protect your freedom and your reputation. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation about your case.

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