Several times each month I get a call from a local college student asking me questions about a crime that he or she has just been charged with. Most of the crimes are minor misdemeanors; shoplifting, trespassing or being a minor in possession of alcohol. Some of the charges are more serious such as assault and battery, drug possession or drug distribution. Very few of these kids have criminal records and almost all of them will continue not to have a criminal record if they are properly represented. The problem is that most of them do not want an effective lawyer. They want to represent themselves. The reason is two-fold. First, they do not have enough money to hire a lawyer. Second, they are afraid of asking their parents for the money because they don’t want them finding out what they did. As explained in this article this is a big mistake.
Most of the Crimes College Students Are Charged With Can Be Resolved at a Clerk Magistrate Hearing
The large majority of charges that college students face are misdemeanors. Misdemeanors not committed in the presence of police officers do not result in arrests. They result in the defendant getting a summons for a Clerk Magistrate Hearing. This is s civil proceeding. At the hearing the police office or a representative from his department tells a clerk magistrate a summary of the facts constituting the crime. If probable cause is demonstrated the clerk magistrate then has the right to issue a criminal complaint. However, the clerk can also hold the complaint meaning that you will not have to face a judge. An experienced lawyer should represent you at this proceeding to ensure that no complaint issues. If you represent yourself it is likely that a criminal complaint will issue. Then, your problems become worse.
Lawyers Usually Charge Less for Clerk’s Hearings Than They Do to Represent You at Arraignment for a Crime
Most Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers charge between $1,000 and $1,500 for a clerk’s hearing. On the other hand, no matter what the crime charged you will likely have to pay more for a lawyer to represent you if a complaint issues. The reason is simple. A clerk magistrate hearing is a short proceeding. You get your result that day and don’t have to go back to court. Conversely, an arraignment is the beginning of the criminal process. Someone who is arraigned is usually compelled to return to court on several occasions. As a consequence, lawyers charge more for this than for the clerk’s hearing.
Summons for Arraignment
Even if you receive a summons for an arraignment getting a lawyer to represent you is imperative. Once you are arraigned you get a pcf number. This signifies that you have been involved in the system. Sometimes a lawyer can avoid arraignment by betting the case dismissed or getting you into a diversion program. There is no need to take a chance if you don’t have to.
Parents Are Usually Supportive
You might not believe this but most parents will be very supportive to you when you are in this type of predicament. Remember, your parents were kids once too. They understand that today’s rules are less forgiving than when they were kids. They will help you. They will pay for your lawyer or at a minimum lend you the money necessary to properly defend your case.
Clerk Magistrate Hearing Defense
We cannot even begin to count the number of cases we have won at the clerk’s hearing stage. Don’t represent yourself. Call us at 617-263-6800. We can help you with your case.