What is a Clerk Magistrate Hearing?
A clerk magistrate or “show cause” hearing may be held to determine whether probable cause exists for a person to be charged with a criminal offense. If you are accused of committing a misdemeanor crime and you are not arrested, you are generally entitled to a show cause hearing. You are not entitled to a show cause hearing if: you were arrested on the charges, the charges include a felony, or the magistrate determines that you appear dangerous, likely to injure someone, or likely to commit another crime. You may also request a show cause hearing within 4 days of receiving a motor vehicle citation that charges only misdemeanor offenses.
The hearing is not open to the public. At the hearing, the clerk magistrate will determine if probable cause exists to issue a criminal complaint. First, the complainant is given the opportunity to present their version of the events. The complainant is often a police officer, so the hearing will involve the arresting police officer or police representative testifying as to their knowledge of the incident. Additional witnesses may be called, and the accused also has the right to testify.
If the probable cause standard is met, formal criminal charges will issue and the accused will be arraigned. Alternatively, even if the clerk magistrate finds probable cause, he/she may decide to hold the complaint for a specified period of time, which will result in dismissal if the accused is not charged with another offense within the prescribed period. This is most often done when the accused does not have a criminal record. Otherwise, if the clerk magistrate does not find probable cause, then the charges are dismissed and will not appear on the accused’s record.
Clerk magistrate hearings present an important opportunity for the accused to have the chares held or dismissed prior to arraignment, and to protect one’s criminal record. Do not be fooled by the informality of this hearing – if you are facing a clerk magistrate hearing, you should hire experienced counsel to present your defense and other factors in mitigation.
Call McCormack Law today to begin preparing for your clerk magistrate hearing.