Despite what you see on TV, not all criminal cases begin with an offender being put in handcuffs and taken away in a police car. In many misdemeanor cases, an offender may be given a notice to appear for a clerk magistrate hearing rather than being placed under arrest.
During this time, it’s vital that you prepare for your appearance at the clerk magistrate hearing. If you don’t do everything you can to protect your rights, you could be formally charged with a crime at the conclusion of the hearing.
Preparing for Your Clerk Magistrate Hearing
The single best way to prepare for a clerk’s hearing is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. Your lawyer will know how to present your case in the best possible light, making it more likely that the charges against you will be dismissed without the need for trial.
You can also help your defense at your hearing if you:
- Be proactive. Everything you do in the hearing should demonstrate to the clerk that you are taking the charge seriously. One way to do this is by addressing the problem with your actions even before you appear in court. For example, you can voluntarily join an alcohol treatment program after an OUI charge, or enroll in an anger management course after an assault offense. These steps can go a long way toward avoiding an official complaint.
- Be respectful. Your clerk’s hearing may seem like an informal meeting, but it has the same legal standing as a hearing before the district court judge. Always be courteous and polite to all members of the court, including the prosecuting attorney. Resist the urge to make jokes, as they may not be taken in the way you intended. Above all, try to remain calm. Emotional outbursts are generally unproductive in these proceedings, and they can be looked on unfavorably by a clerk.
- Supply evidence. You will need to provide as much information as you can to your attorney so they can choose which evidence to present at trial. For example, if you took any photos or video at the time of the offense, these recordings may show police officers performing an illegal search. You could also provide statements from reliable witnesses who can attest that you were not present when the crime was committed or that you were not treated fairly by law enforcement.
- Give good testimony. All defendants have the right to make a statement on their own behalf at the hearing. Your attorney will advise you on whether you should testify personally, or if your attorney should read a statement for you. A lawyer can help you decide which factors could mitigate the charges against you (such as your background or status as a first-time offender) and the words you use when addressing the charges against you.
- Listen to your lawyer. It’s vital to remember that anything you say at the hearing can be used against you in court. If you don’t carefully consider what you tell the clerk and prosecutor, you could ruin your chances for dismissal or even face additional criminal charges.
Let a Criminal Defense Attorney Talk You Through Your Next Steps
There are multiple ways a hearing can go in your favor. Even if the charge against you isn’t dismissed outright, the clerk magistrate could decide to “hold” the complaint for a certain length of time. If this probationary period passes without any additional complaints against you, the allegation will be dismissed.
If you have gotten a notice to show up for a Massachusetts clerk magistrate’s hearing, you need to take full advantage of the opportunity to dismiss your case. At Nate Amendola Defense, we do everything we can to mitigate the charges against you and prevent the fallout from the offense from ruining your life. Contact us today to set up a confidential consultation and have us get started on building your best defense.