Often police can ask the court to charge a person with a crime without ever making an arrest. Massachusetts law allows for the police to file an application for a criminal charge with the Clerk Magistrate of any local district court. Once the police file a request for charges, the Clerk Magistrate will notify the individual to be charged and schedule a hearing.
This hearing is often referred to a "Clerk's Hearing." A Clerk's Hearing takes place at the courthouse, but is often in a conference room or some other setting less formal than a courtroom. These Clerk's Hearings can occur in District Court or Juvenile Court. The way these Clerk's Hearings are conducted can differ from court to court, but they tend to be less formal than court proceedings, and the standard rules of evidence do not apply.
The purpose of a Clerk's Hearing is for the police to present information on the case to the Clerk Magistrate. The individual who the police want charges to issue against has the opportunity to be represented by an attorney and can also present evidence. It is always best to be represented by an experienced Clerk's Hearing attorney at these types of hearings. After listening to both sides, the Clerk Magistrate then determines if there is "probable cause" to believe the offense may have been committed.
If the Clerk Magistrate finds that probable cause exists, then charges will be issued. The court will set an arraignment date and the person charged will go to court and appear in front of a judge. If the Clerk determines that there is not probable cause for the case to go forward, the charges will not issue and the case will end without any charges ever officially being filed.Protecting Your Rights At a Massachusetts Clerk's Hearing
A Clerk's Hearing is an important opportunity to stop charges before they start. In Massachusetts, all Clerk's Hearings are not open to the public, and any record of an application for charges is not made public unless the case goes forward to a judge. If you are able to stop your charges at a Clerk's Hearing no record of the offense will ever exist in the court's public records, and the charges will never appear on your criminal record or your CORI.
In certain situations, even if probable cause is found by the clerk he or she may be willing to hold the case without sending the charges into court. If a Clerk Magistrate can be convinced to hold the charges, it will stop the charges from ever becoming a part of your record, or even becoming public knowledge.
If you have received notice of a Clerk's Hearing you need an attorney with the experience and know how to protect your criminal record and prevent official charges from proceeding. Attorney Daniel Cappetta has handled Clerk's Hearings in Distirct Courts and Juvenile Courts throughout Massachusetts. Call him today for a free consultation and information on how to stop these charges before they become a part of your criminal record. Attorney Cappetta is available to speak with you about your case during his regular office hours and during the evenings and weekends. Contact him today at (508) 762-4540.