Clerk Magistrate Hearing

Our Guide to a Clerk Magistrate Hearing in Massachusetts

Getting called to any kind of court hearing can be incredibly intimidating and nerve-wracking. You’ll want to present yourself in the best possible light, especially when defending yourself from a misdemeanor charge. Fortunately, having the best criminal lawyers in Boston by your side will help you prepare adequately and help you achieve the most favorable results possible. 

Maneuvering a clerk magistrate hearing can get complicated, as there are different instances in which you must appear at court even without a notice to attend. Regardless, attending a clerk magistrate hearing is a serious matter, so you’ll want to make sure you know everything about it before showing up. Here’s what you need to know:

Who is Invited to a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?

Also known as a show cause hearing, this is an opportunity for you, the defendant, to stop a criminal case from being listed on your criminal offender record information or CORI. If you weren’t arrested or brought in for arraignment, then you’ll receive a notice to appear for a clerk’s hearing. It’s a common occurrence for misdemeanors or felonies in which the officer opted not to arrest you on-site. It also applies to crimes where an officer was not present.

One of the most common clerk magistrate hearings is in response to a speeding ticket, also known as a Motor Vehicle Citation. However, in this case, you won’t receive a notice to attend. You are expected to go to court within four days of receiving the ticket, so you’ll want to show up as soon as possible.

Another instance in which a clerk magistrate hearing occurs is when civilians request the court to bring a criminal charge against you. Following Massachusetts law, an officer must ask the court to send you a notice for a hearing if they do not arrest you and other parties are filing a complaint against you. You will then receive the notice, often by mail, before they formally charge you. 

What Happens During the Hearing?

Although you may be tempted to think that the matter isn’t severe, this is an opportunity for you to have the charges thrown out before they’re officially brought against you. When you’re at the hearing, another party can testify against you, often a police officer who will be retelling their side of the story. They may also invite more witnesses to the incident to the hearing. The accusing party will need to bring a probable cause or reasonable basis for assuming that you have committed a crime, which is often feasible. 

After this, you have your own chance to bring witnesses to the hearing and present evidence to defend your case. However, bear in mind that courts tend to favor police officers, so you’ll want to work closely with the most reputable Boston criminal law firms to provide solid evidence of your innocence. If you’re successful in proving your case, then your criminal record will remain clean. Remember that the clerk magistrate can use any statements you make against you, so having a Massachusetts criminal lawyer’s assistance is crucial. 

The Results of the Hearing

Once the clerk magistrate hears both sides’ testimonies, they will determine if there is probable cause. If it meets the standard of proof, then they will file charges against you. However, the clerk magistrate can also decide to hold the complaint about a particular time, often if the accused has a clean record. If this happens, then they will dismiss allegations against you as long as you don’t commit further violations in this period. The clerk magistrate can also completely dismiss the allegations if they cannot find probable cause.

Although the hearings appear less formal than district court hearings once they file charges, they still carry immense power. A clerk magistrate hearing is your last chance of preserving your criminal record, making it essential to work with the most credible attorneys available.


These hearings are crucial, as they can affect your chances of securing opportunities to further your career or quality of life. Criminal records often deter companies from hiring people, and some employers can be turned off even by something as minor as a speeding ticket. If you’re invited to a clerk magistrate hearing or expected to attend even without a notice, be sure to get in touch with a lawyer to receive the best assistance right away.

The Fernandez Firm is one of the best Boston criminal law firms, focusing on criminal defense. With industry expertise in all matters related to criminal law, state and federal courts, and bilingual proficiency, we can give you the best legal service possible. Contact us today to prepare for your hearing!