What is a Clerk Magistrate’s hearing?
If you’re accused of committing a misdemeanor crime and you are not arrested, then you are usually entitled to a Clerk Magistrate’s hearing. You may also know this to be called a “show cause hearing”. At the hearing a District Court Clerk Magistrate will hear all of the evidence and determine if there is probable cause to believe you committed a crime. Probable cause is a very low burden of proof. All that would have to be shown is that there is reasonable ground to suspect that you may have committed a crime. In other words, after hearing all the evidence, the Clerk Magistrate will determine if it is “more likely than not” that you may have committed the crime alleged. In a criminal complaint the evidence is presented to the Clerk Magistrate by a police officer. The police officer may also have witnesses or victims of the alleged crime who will testify at this hearing. You may question those witnesses and may also bring in witnesses of your own. Having a lawyer who is trained to ask the right questions and deal with these situations is your best option for being successful in a Clerk’s Hearing.
You may also request a Clerk Magistrate’s hearing within 4 days of receiving a motor vehicle citation that charges only misdemeanor offenses. Like a criminal hearing this is generally not open to the public, but you may bring witnesses if you think they are necessary. The magistrate will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to issue the complaint, again using the probable cause standard.
If the magistrate finds probable cause, a complaint will be issued and you’ll be given a date to appear for your arraignment. You are not entitled to a show cause hearing if: (1) you were arrested on the charges, OR (2) the magistrate determines that you appear dangerous, likely to injure someone, or likely to commit another crime, OR (3) the charges include a felony. If any of these things happen you will likely be arrested and brought to court by the police to be arraigned, or you will receive a summons in the mail notifying you of a future Arraignment date.
Why do I need an attorney for a clerk magistrate’s hearing?
In criminal cases a Clerk Magistrate’s hearing is a great first line of defense. This is your first chance to resolve a case before it ever appears on your criminal record (CARI). An attorney will represent you at this hearing with the purposes of resolving your case prior to a criminal charges issuing and an arraignment appearing on your record. Resolving cases in this setting allows you to avoid having a criminal record, or from adding more entries to your current criminal record. Often, people feel that this hearing is informal and they can represent themselves, however having an attorney who knows how to properly navigate these hearings is imperative to your success.