Hiring a qualified and experienced Boston, Massachusetts criminal defense attorney is very important and should be the first step any defendant should take when responding to a summons to appear before a clerk magistrate in any Massachusetts court for potential criminal charges. The clerk magistrate is the court official that will determine whether or not an application for complaint against you will be allowed or denied. If the application is allowed by the clerk magistrate, a criminal complaint will then issue and the criminal process against you will start and your case will be scheduled for an arraignment before a judge. If the application is denied this will most likely end the matter although the aggrieved party seeking issuance of a criminal complaint may still appeal a denial and request a de novo or new hearing before the judge for reconsideration of the application.
The standard for issuance of a criminal complaint is very low and the party seeking the complaint against a person need only establish probable cause that a crime occurred. This is different and much lower that the normal prosecution burden of proof standard at a criminal trial which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A clerk magistrate is in control of the administration of the hearing. He or she will often allow a defendant’s private attorney to question all complaining witnesses. The defense lawyer’s advocacy at the clerk’s hearing can often make or break a case and a skilled criminal defense lawyer can often convince the clerk magistrate to deny the complaint after questioning the witnesses and making a strong legal argument. Additionally, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to work out an agreement to avoid a complaint by persuading the clerk to continue the application for complaint for a period of time and if no other trouble between the parties occurs, the clerk will not issue the complaint. The bottom line is that defendants must hire competent and experienced counsel to aggressively defend their legal interests at the hearing to protect them from having a criminal record and all the negative consequences that flow from having a criminal conviction.