What is a clerks hearing?
You may have received a summons from the court or the police stating that you must appear at a show cause or clerks hearing to answer to a criminal complaint. A clerks hearing is an informal hearing conducted by a clerk magistrate to determine whether there is enough evidence to determine whether there was a crime committed or not. If the clerk finds there was, then criminal charges are issued against you to issue formal criminal charges. A date will be set for arraignment in which the Defendant will plead guilty or not guilty. At this point, regardless of the outcome if you are arraigned then you will have a permanent criminal record on file until such time it can be sealed.
What goes on at a clerks hearing?
Evidence from both sides are presented in the form of witnesses, witness affidavits, documentary evidence, videos, photos. Although you do need more then just a “he said, she said” situation to show enough evidence of a crime. The clerk will hear both sides and if there is sufficient evidence (usually probable cause standard) that a crime was committed, then the clerk will issue formal criminal charges against you. You will then receive notification by mail to appear in a court to be arraigned on the charges.
Who can file for a clerks hearing?
Anyone can file these complaints, although it usually the police that do so. When the police show up at the scene and they do not actually observe a misdemeanor crime being perpetrated, then they will usually file a criminal complaint requesting a clerks hearing through the mail. If the police do not feel there is enough evidence to charge someone, then you as the vicitim may file a criminal complain at the local court house the exact same way the police do. You must have enough evidence to do so though, “he said, she said” is not enough. You need witnesses, photos, videos, anything that can convince a clerk that a crime was committed against you.
Do I need a lawyer?
Absolutely. The ramifications of having one of these criminal complaints issued against you means you would have a permanent record on file, whether you are convicted or not. This record is accessible to the public and is often viewed by employers and educational institutions. An experienced lawyer will know exactly what kind of evidence and how much may be needed to assure the charges are issues or dismissed. Often times a lawyer may file cross complaints against an alleged victim if they feel the complaint was filed falsely and that the defendant may have been a victim themselves.