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Clerk Magistrate Hearings FAQs

Boston Attorneys Assisting People Accused of Crimes in the Pursuit of Favorable Outcomes

Generally, people think that criminal charges arise out of arrests. While this is often true, Massachusetts law allows clerk magistrates to issue criminal complaints against people following clerk magistrate hearings. Many people who receive notices of clerk magistrate hearings lack an understanding of what the hearing process entails, but it is critical for them to know the answers to frequently asked questions about magistrate hearings, as set forth below, so that they can take the steps necessary to protect their rights. If you received notice of a clerk magistrate or show cause hearing, it is smart to speak to an attorney about your options. The knowledgeable Boston criminal defense attorneys at Koufman Law Group can field your concerns and aid you in fighting for a favorable result. We have an office in Boston, and we frequently help people with criminal matters in Boston and cities throughout Massachusetts.

What is a Clerk Magistrate or Show Cause Hearing?

A clerk magistrate hearing is a preliminary hearing held before a district court clerk magistrate to assess whether probable cause exists to issue a criminal complaint against the accused party. A show cause hearing is another term for a clerk magistrate hearing. The term show cause refers to the fact that the complainant, or party that is seeking the criminal complaint must offer evidence adequate to show that there is a reason or cause, to issue the complaint.

What happens at a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?

During the hearing, the complainant will present evidence that they believe demonstrates both that a crime was committed and that the accused party was the one who committed the crime. The accused party can offer evidence as well, including witness testimony, and may have the chance to question the complainant. After considering the evidence presented, the Clerk Magistrate decides whether the complaint has adequately demonstrated probable cause to proceed with criminal charges.

Who bears the burden of proof in clerk magistrate hearings?

As with criminal trials, the complainant bears the burden of proving probable cause, while the accused party does not have to prove their innocence or otherwise have to offer any proof. Clerk magistrate hearings differ from criminal trials, though, in that the burden of proof is much lower. While in criminal trials, guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt, the probable cause standard applied in clerk magistrate hearings merely requires the complainant to provide enough evidence to suggest that a crime has been committed and that the accused individual was involved.

Do accused parties have to offer evidence in clerk magistrate hearings?

The accused individual is not required to offer evidence or demonstrate their innocence during clerk magistrate hearings. If they have evidence in their favor, though, it would be beneficial to present it, as it may prevent the clerk from issuing a criminal complaint. As such, they should bring any evidence or documents that support their position, as well as any witnesses who can testify on their behalf. Additionally, they should be prepared to present their side of the story and respond to questions from the clerk magistrate.

What are the possible outcomes of a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?

The Clerk Magistrate can decide to dismiss the case if they determine the evidence is insufficient to show probable cause, continue the case for further investigation, or issue a criminal complaint, initiating formal criminal proceedings.

Speak to a Trusted Boston Criminal Defense Attorney

While accused parties have the right to represent themselves in clerk magistrate hearings,  attorneys can argue on their behalf and potentially prevent the clerk from issuing a criminal complaint. If you are interested in learning more about clerk magistrate hearings, you should speak to an attorney. The trusted Boston criminal defense lawyers of Koufman Law Group dedicate their practice to helping people protect their rights in criminal proceedings, and if you engage our services, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. We have an office in Boston, and we routinely represent people in criminal matters in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. You can contact us to arrange a confidential conference through our online form or by calling us at 617-423-2212.

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