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Hinman Law Blog

Clerk’s Hearings

If you have received a summons for a clerk’s hearing in Boston, Wellesley, Newton, Dedham, Needham, or anywhere in Suffolk, Norfolk, or Middlesex Counties, it is in your best interest to capitalize on the opportunity to prevent being charged with a crime. Many people have the misconception that they can easily represent themselves at a Clerk’s Hearing. Hiring a skilled criminal lawyer can mean the difference between ending up with a criminal record, or avoiding a criminal charge altogether. When the police allege that you have committed a misdemeanor outside of their presence (for example, if another person alleges that you hit their car and left the scene of the accident), the matter will be heard before a Clerk Magistrate before the complaint is issued. If the alleged crime is a felony, under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 218, Section 35A, officers still have the discretion to request a Clerk’s Hearing before you are formally charged, unless police determine that there is an imminent threat of bodily injury, of the commission of a crime, or of flight from the state. A Clerk ‘s Hearing is not a trial—the issue is not whether you are guilty or innocent. The purpose of the hearing is for the Clerk Magistrate to determine whether or not there is probable cause for the complaint to issue. Probable cause is a low standard —it essentially means that it is more likely than not that a crime was committed. An experienced criminal defense attorney will understand the nuances of probable cause, what the elements of the crime are, and will be able to identify helpful witnesses and properly evaluate deficiencies in the police report. It can also be useful to contact the police officer and try to work with law enforcement, and any other witnesses, to come to a resolution that does not involve a criminal charge. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Hinman has worked with multiple law enforcement agencies and understands how to work effectively with them on your behalf. If you have been accused of a crime, your emotions can easily impede your ability to explain your position in a clear and convincing manner, and without knowledge of the law, you may incriminate yourself. Having a skilled criminal lawyer arguing the relevant facts on your behalf gives you the best chance of avoiding an entry on your criminal record.

What Can I Expect at a Clerk’s Hearing?

A Clerk’s Hearing is more informal than a many court proceedings. The hearing is not recorded and there is no judge presiding. Usually the officer will be present to read the report, or the complaining witness/alleged victim will be present to relay his/her version of what transpired. You do not have to testify or make any statements on your own behalf, but you can if you wish. The Clerk Magistrate then considers all of the testimony and evidence, and determines whether or not there is probable cause that a crime was committed. If the Clerk Magistrate determines that there is not enough evidence to establish probable cause, the complaint will be dismissed and the incident will not appear on your criminal record. If the Clerk Magistrate decides that there is, in fact, sufficient probable cause, then the complaint will be issued. If the complaint issues, you will formally be charged with a crime and will be arraigned before a judge.

Because the stakes are so high at a Clerk’s Hearing, it is absolutely essential that you have a skilled attorney on your side. If you have received a summons for a Clerk’s Hearing in Wellesley, Boston, Needham, Natick, Wayland, Newton, Dedham, or anywhere in Norfolk, Middlesex, or Suffolk Counties, contact Attorney Hinman at 617-283-4480, or using the form to the left, for a free consultation to discuss your options.