• Michael Thaler, Esq

What Are the Possible Outcomes From a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?

In general, there are four different outcomes of a clerk magistrate hearing in the district courts and juvenile courts in Massachusetts: three of which arise if the clerk magistrate finds probable cause and the last if the clerk magistrate finds that there is no probable cause. There are many benefits to participating in a clerk magistrate hearing, as three of the four possible outcomes result in the matter eventually being dismissed without ever going on a person’s criminal record. It is enormously beneficial to have an application for a complaint dismissed at a clerk magistrate hearing, as it keeps the matter off a person’s criminal record and allows a person to avoid the financial, mental health, and liberty consequences of going through the court process. To read more background information about clerk magistrate hearings in Massachusetts, click here.


The best possible outcome at a clerk magistrate hearing in the district courts and juvenile courts in Massachusetts is that the clerk magistrate finds no probable cause. This will result in the dismissal of the matter outright. When a clerk’s hearing results in the dismissal of the matter, it means it will remain private and confidential and never appear on a person’s criminal record.


Of the four possible outcomes of a clerk’s hearing in Massachusetts, the other three arise if the clerk magistrate finds probable cause for at least one of the charged offenses:

  1. First, the clerk magistrate may find probable cause to issue at least one charge of the application for complaint but decide to dismiss the matter altogether. This is a great resolution as it means that no charges will proceed to an arraignment and the matter will be dismissed without appearing on a person’s criminal record. This can occur if the person has already satisfied concerns from the alleged charge -i.e., reactivating a suspended license or completing a safe driving course.

  2. Second, the clerk magistrate may find probable cause but decide to keep the matter open for a period of time and so long as the person does not pick up any new offenses and/or abides by certain conditions, the matter will be dismissed on the end date without the complaint issuing. A typical period for the matter to remain open is three – six months. This is also a great resolution as the matter remains private/confidential and does not appear on the criminal record. Common circumstances where this situation may arise at a clerk magistrate hearing in Massachusetts is if there are mental health concerns, restitution owed, or something related to the alleged offense that can be resolved such as a suspended license or revoked registration. For example, if a person committed an allegation such as shoplifting, the matter may remain open after a clerk magistrate hearing for a period of time for the individual to pay restitution and/or complete a shoplifting prevention class. Another circumstance would be if someone allegedly committed an offense while struggling with substance abuse, and the clerk magistrate might keep the matter open for the person to undergo substance abuse treatment or counseling. Usually, the person does not need to appear at the return date but only has to provide proof in advance of the completion of any required conditions.

  3. Finally, the clerk magistrate may find probable cause and issue the complaint. This is the worst resolution as it means that the charges are proceeding to an arraignment. However, there can still be something gained at a clerk magistrate hearing in the district courts or juvenile courts of Massachusetts even if this resolution occurs. For instance, the clerk magistrate may issue only some of the charges or a lesser included offense of the applied for charges if probable cause does not exist for every element or as a way to give a person a break. Also, a skilled clerk magistrate hearing lawyer can elicit helpful information during the clerk magistrate hearing from the police officer that will assist in the case going forward. To read more information about the benefits of having an experienced clerk magistrate hearing lawyer representing you at a clerk’s hearing in the district courts and juvenile courts in Massachusetts, click here.

Clerk magistrate hearings can be a very stressful experience in the district courts and juvenile courts in Massachusetts. It is possible that a seasoned police officer and a clerk magistrate can ask you questions about what happened, and anything you say is likely recorded and available to be used against you in the prosecution of the allegation. It is beneficial to know what to expect at a clerk’s hearing in the district courts and juvenile courts in Massachusetts and the possible outcomes. Every allegation is different, and a person’s individual circumstances can affect the outcome of a clerk magistrate hearing as well. Attorney Michael Thaler represents clients at clerk magistrate hearings in the district courts and juvenile courts throughout Massachusetts, including in the Boston and Dedham areas. Reach out to Attorney Michael Thaler at 781-366-0806 or mike@thaler.law to schedule a free consultation to discuss your specific situation.