An Andover, Massachusetts police officer now has a November 22nd date for a Clerk’s Hearing in the Lowell District Court. The charges being considered at the hearing are Leaving the Scene of an Accident Causing Property Damage and Operating Under the Influence of Liquor, commonly referred to in Massachusetts as OUI.
It is alleged that on March 11th of this year Officer Evan Robitaille of the Andover Police Department got into an accident around 9:30 in the morning and then fled the scene. A Clerk’s Hearing was scheduled for last Friday but with the agreement of Robitaille’s lawyer and the district attorney the case was continued.
In Massachusetts, people charged with misdemeanors not committed in the presence of police officers have the right to a Clerk’s Hearing. This is a civil proceeding conducted in front of a Clerk Magistrate. The moving party will introduce evidence at the hearing. The Massachusetts Rules of Evidence do not apply to these proceedings, so essentially, the moving party gets to tell his or her story. The accused has the right to present evidence in his or her behalf but is under no obligation to do so. The clerk magistrate then weighs the evidence and makes the determination as to whether 1) there exists probable cause to issue a criminal complaint and 2) whether there exists probable cause to determine whether the accused is the person who committed that crime. If the answer to both is “yes” then a complaint often issues.
The Clerk Magistrate does however have the power not to issue the complaint. He can continue the matter and advise the accused that if he remains out of trouble for a period of time no complaint will issue. The Clerk Magistrate can also work with the parities towards a resolution of the issues without the need for judicial intervention. In essence he acts as a “gatekeeper” to the court, weeding out the cases that can be resolved without the issuance of a criminal complaint.
It is advisable for anyone who has one of these hearings to engage a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer. Good lawyers can prevent complaints from issuing and the cost of a lawyer at a Clerk’s Hearing is often less than that at a criminal proceeding.