Clerk’s Hearings

Boston Criminal Lawyer: What Is a Clerk’s Hearing?

What is a clerk’s hearing?

A clerk’s hearing  (also known as a clerk magistrate’s hearing or a”show cause” hearing) is one of the initial stages in the Massachusetts court system for misdemeanor charges. In a number of cases, a person may be called in to a clerk’s hearing by a mailed criminal citation or summons instead of being arrested and formally arraigned on misdemeanor charges.

The purpose of a clerk’s hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence or reasonable cause to warrant further legal prosecution. Often, people are called in to a show cause hearing if they receive a misdemeanor charge notification in the mail, before any arrest occurs. It is also common for people to be asked to attend a clerk’s hearing for crimes such as drug possession, shoplifting, assault, and criminal traffic charges. A clerk’s hearing is also the first step if a person is facing a civil, non-criminal charge, such as a speeding ticket or other traffic violation.

What happens at a clerk’s hearing?

Typically, during a show cause hearing, the arresting officer will appear in court to read a report or describe for the clerk magistrate what happened in your arrest. Sometimes, if the arresting officer does not appear, a police prosecutor instead will represent the department. As the defendant, you may bring an attorney to represent you. The proceedings are not recorded and there is no public record of what transpires in a clerk’s hearing. Based upon your attorney’s advice, you may or may not choose to testify on your own behalf. In some cases, witnesses may appear as well in order to provide testimony. In the end, the clerk magistrate will consider the testimony and exhibits, and arguments from both the police officer and your attorney. If the clerk magistrate finds that there is probable cause to support the charges — and if he or she also believes that you should be charged — then a complaint will issue against you. If, on the other hand, your attorney can convince the clerk magistrate that there are good reasons to dismiss the case, then your criminal record will remain clean.

Why you should have a defense attorney present at a clerk’s hearing

It is crucially important to have an attorney present at a Massachusetts clerk’s hearing/show cause hearing to give you a chance at successfully getting the charges against you voided or dismissed. Depending on your criminal record and the circumstances of your arrest, a defense attorney may also be able to reach out to an officer or alleged victim and convince him or her to recommend that the charges against you be dismissed. There may also be a legal basis to prevent a complaint from issuing. A voided charge is better than a dropped charge because there is no record of an arrest. Essentially, it is as if the incident never happened. The danger for an unrepresented defendant is his or her ignorance of both the legal and practical aspects to a clerk’s hearing.

Speak with a Boston Criminal Lawyer about your clerk’s hearing now, 24/7


With 20 years of experience Attorney O’Brien has an outstanding record of defending the most complex criminal cases in Boston and Massachusetts including many appearances at clerk’s hearings.

To speak with a highly experienced Boston criminal lawyer,
contact us online or telephone Francis T. O’Brien, Jr. at O'Brien Law Boston twenty four hours, seven days a week, toll free at 617-512-0939. There is no fee charged to discuss your case, and all information furnished will be kept strictly confidential.