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  • Writer's pictureMichael Thaler, Esq

Do I need a lawyer for a clerk magistrate hearing?

It is always beneficial to have a lawyer represent your interests at a clerk magistrate hearing in Massachusetts. While you may not “need” one to have a positive outcome, the more serious the case, the more advantageous it is to have a lawyer. First and foremost, this is because most clerk magistrate hearings are recorded, and any statements made by someone who is representing himself or herself could be used against that person during future court proceedings if the complaint issues. A lawyer can speak for you at the hearing and present information on your behalf without exposing you to criminal liability.

It is also beneficial to have a lawyer at a clerk magistrate hearing in Massachusetts to help you navigate the process. No two clerk magistrate hearings are exactly the same, and each individual has different personal circumstances that can have an effect on the outcome. To read more background information about clerk magistrate hearings in Massachusetts, click HERE.

A lawyer can more readily obtain a copy of the police report, speak to the police representative ahead of time, and help gather relevant information that will be useful at a hearing. For instance, if a person has a clerk magistrate hearing on charges involve substance use, a lawyer familiar with clerk magistrate hearings can suggest treatment options that will be looked upon positively in seeking a favorable resolution. This is why it is important to talk to a clerk magistrate lawyer as early in the process as possible. Certain pieces of evidence such as receipts or call logs might not be available by the time the hearing occurs, which can affect the outcome of the hearing.

There are several possible outcomes at a clerk magistrate hearing. The matter could be dismissed on that day or on some future date so long as the accused abides by conditions and does not pick up any new offenses. Alternatively, the clerk could issue the complaint on some or all of the charges. When there is a legal basis to challenge the issuance of the charges, it is best to have an experienced clerk magistrate hearing lawyer who can research case law and jury instructions to point out to the clerk magistrate the legal deficiencies in the sought charges. If successful, this can result in the clerk finding that there is not probable cause to issue the charges, resulting in the matter being dismissed or lesser charges being issued.

At a clerk magistrate hearing, sometimes the police officers, alleged victims, and/or witnesses involved in the case appear to testify. This is especially the case when facing a more serious charge, such as motor vehicle homicide. When the involved parties are present to testify, a lawyer can cross examine the Commonwealth’s witnesses, highlight favorable evidence, and elicit helpful information for the case that could be very useful if the case eventually goes to a trial. Because each situation is different, it is best to speak to a clerk magistrate hearing lawyer to discuss your options and determine how best to proceed to get the most favorable result.


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