Probable Cause Hearing
During a preliminary hearing, the clerk magistrate must determine the probable cause for the defendant's alleged crimes. This court process step is also called a show cause hearing in Massachusetts or a clerk magistrate hearing. After the charges are filed, the court hears the probable cause or valid reasons for arrest and charges. This stage helps the court determine whether or not the case will proceed to trial.

Reasonable Suspicion

To determine whether or not a case goes to trial, the court needs to hear reasonable suspicion that the defendant committed an alleged crime. For example, when an officer sees someone swerving while driving their car, that gives them enough reasonable doubt to pull over the driver. Suppose they conduct a sobriety test or use a breathalyzer that determines the driver is under the influence of alcohol. In that case, they have probable cause to arrest the driver and file charges.

Do Probable Cause Hearings Always Go to Trial?

Not all probable cause hearings go to trial. Probable cause, or show cause, hearings only go to trial if there is sufficient evidence to bring it to trial. If adequate evidence supports the charges against the defendant, there is enough reason to hold a trial before conviction. Good evidence can include:
  • Witness statements
  • Police reports
  • Medical reports (if applicable)
  • Photographic or video evidence of a crime being committed
Going to trial does not mean that someone is convicted of their crimes. Being convicted of a crime only come if they are found guilty during the trial.

Types of Cases with a Probable Cause Hearing

Not all types of cases require a probable cause hearing. Most probable cause hearings are for misdemeanor crimes, such as:
When searching for an attorney to handle your case, you will want to contact one with experience in your type of case. For example, in a child custody case, you will want a family law attorney with experience in child custody matters to help defend your case.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Probable Cause Hearing?

At a probable cause hearing, it is essential to make sure that you have an experienced lawyer with you. An experienced lawyer can give you the best shot at reviving the charges or avoiding a lengthy trial. Trials can take months or even years, depending on the alleged crimes and evidence required for the trial. A probable cause hearing is the first chance in court at getting charges dismissed.

If you have been charged with a crime, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare for a probable cause hearing. Some probable cause hearings can occur within days after the alleged crime. If the defendant was not arrested, they would often receive notice of a court date for the preliminary hearing. If they were arrested, it was usually the day after they were arrested.