Show Cause Hearings

If you have been accused of committing a misdemeanor crime, but you have not been arrested, you are entitled to a show cause hearing, also known as a clerk’s magistrate hearing to determine if there is probable cause for the issuance of a criminal charge. The standard is a relatively low one, only requiring the showing of probable cause “more likely than not” a crime has been committed.

However, you are not entitled to a show cause hearing if you were arrested on the charges; if the charges include a felony; or if the magistrate determines that you are dangerous, likely to harm someone or to commit another crime.

If you haven’t been arrested, law enforcement officials can fill out an application to petition the court to issue a criminal complaint against you. With the proper defense, you can take advantage of the all the opportunities that a show cause hearing presents, namely to prevent a criminal complaint from being issued, and subsequently prevent a criminal case against you from being filed. The hearing is generally not open to the public, but you may bring evidence and witnesses. Show-cause hearings should be taken very seriously, and a knowledgable attorney can present the best possible case to avoid a complaint being issued.

Consequently, an alleged victim also may receive notice prior to the show cause hearing, and may also appear to testify or bring witnesses to testify. If a law enforcement official has petitioned the court seeking a complaint against you, that official, in turn, testifies to what they knows and/or to reads a police incident report to the magistrate. As part of defending against the complaint the accused can summons in witnesses or present other evidence which they believe will assist in their defense

Show cause proceedings are not generally recorded and the rules of criminal procedure in court do not apply in a show cause hearing. So, evidence that would normally be excluded in a criminal case, including hearsay,may be allowed in a show cause hearing.

A clerk magistrate may simply dismiss the application for complaint if they determine there is a lack of probable cause. That means no public records are generated as a result of a show cause hearing in which an application for a complaint is dismissed. A clerk magistrate may also “hold” an application for complaint. That means the application will not be dismissed, but held for a period of time (six months to a year) and then dismiss is if no additional allegations are brought forth by the complainant. During this time, no charges have been filed against you and no public records generated. This means he or she will not immediately dismiss it, but will hold it for a certain period of time (often six months or a year) and then dismiss it at that point if there are no further allegations or if the accused has met certain conditions imposed by this probationary period, such as community service. While the application is being held you have not been charged with a crime, and as such, no public records are generated.

If, however, a complaint is denied, whoever filed the application for a complaint against you can ask a Judge to redetermine the case and make a new decision. The judge can review the same materials presented to the magistrate or allow new materials and witnesses to be presented.

In the event, however, that a magistrate finds probable cause, a complaint will be issued, and you will be provided a date for your arraignment; a process you can find more information about here.

The Law Office of George N. Papachristos is dedicated to providing excellent legal representation to all of our clients. Our office is located in Milton, Massachusetts and we serve clients in many counties, including Norfolk, Suffolk, Middlesex, Plymouth, and Essex. If you need the services of a Boston family law lawyer, criminal defense attorney, or civil litigator, contact the Law Office of George N. Papachristos at (617) 328-7100 or online.

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