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What Happens if I Lose at a Clerk’s Hearing in Massachusetts?

clerk's hearing attorney Massachusetts

Generally in Massachusetts, if you are charged with a misdemeanor and are not arrested, you will receive a notice in the mail that you must attend a Clerk’s Hearing. While the procedure for a Clerk’s Hearing differs from court to court, most of the time either an officer or another witness will testify during the hearing. A Clerk Magistrate will then decide whether or not to dismiss the case, continue the case, or the least desirable outcome would be for the judge to issue a complaint.

If the complaint is dismissed at the clerk magistrate’s hearing, it won’t appear on your record, but if the complaint issues, you still have options with an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney.

What Happens After a Criminal Complaint Issues?

By  issuing a criminal complaint, that means the Commonwealth is going forward in officially charging you. You will then be given a date to come back to court for your arraignment. Unfortunately, there is no option to appeal the decision of the clerk magistrate if you lose at a hearing, but if you hire a Massachusetts  criminal defense attorney, there is still a chance that you can avoid a criminal trial. At an arraignment, the charges against you will be read, and you will have the option to plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest. After losing at a Clerk’s Hearing, you may be charged with what you were originally attending the Clerk’s hearing for, those charges along with additional charges, or different charges altogether – this is something that the District Attorney will decide based on the evidence against you.

Even if a complaint issues at a clerk magistrate’s hearing, you can still protect your record.  A criminal defense attorney can work with the DA to avoid an arraignment in some circumstances.  At an arraignment, the Commonwealth could also ask that you be detained or a bail be set.

Could I Go to Jail if I Lose at a Clerk’s Hearing?

No, the purpose of a Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing is just to determine whether or not they are going to go forward in formally charging you. You will not be sent to jail, and you will not be fined.  The final decision on your case will be made at the district court after the arraignment, and the judge could decide to hold you in jail at your arraignment.

If I Lose at a Clerk’s Hearing Do I Still Need an Attorney?

YES! If you lose at a Clerk’s Hearing and a criminal complaint is filed against you, that means that you will have to take part in further legal proceedings (such as an arraignment) in front of a judge. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is the best way to obtain the best outcome.

Although an arraignment is the first step in criminal proceedings, do not lose hope that I could help you avoid a permanent criminal record. There are many things we can do to try to avoid further proceedings. I have successfully convinced district attorneys not to arraign cases and give clients pretrial probation before arraignment.  That means the charges do not show up on the person’s record.

At an arraignment, the Commonwealth could also ask that you be detained or a bail be set, meaning you could be held in jail.  That is why you must hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can before your hearing or arraignment date.


If you gave received a notice to appear for a Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing in Massachusetts, I am here to help. I have handled many Clerk’s Hearings all over Massachusetts, and I have had many instances in which I’ve been able to get the case dismissed during the hearing. If you lose your Clerk’s Hearing, I can represent you in your criminal case as well as I also have years of experience in trial courts. Call or text me at 617-295-7500, or send me a message on my website, and let’s get started on your case.




Although I am an attorney, I am not your attorney.  Please do not rely on anything on this page as legal advice because any specific advice would depend on your situation.  Any results posted on this page are not guarantees of outcomes in your case.

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The court system is stressful, whether you’re being charged with a crime, being sued, suing someone, or fighting for your ability to stay and work in this country. You need someone who appreciates this and can dedicate the time not only to represent you effectively in court but to guide you through the process.

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