In many misdemeanor cases, the defendant may undergo a clerk magistrate hearing. The primary reason for the hearing is for the clerk magistrate to look at the facts involving the case and decide if there is enough cause to issue a criminal complaint. Clerk magistrate hearings normally happen when there is a case where police officers are not the primary witness.
At the hearing, the plaintiff will give their description of what happened. They may have witnesses testify on their behalf. The defendant is also allowed to testify if they choose to do so. None of the proceedings during the clerk magistrate hearing will be made public. After hearing all of the evidence and testimony, the clerk magistrate will make a decision.
If the clerk believes that enough probable cause exists, the defendant will be arraigned. A criminal case will be opened. Regardless of whether the defendant is eventually found not guilty, public records of the case will stay on their record.
The clerk has the option to hold the case for a period of time and then dismiss it if there have been no new allegations brought up by the plaintiff. While the case is being held, the defendant has not been charged with a crime and any information concerning the hearing will remain confidential.
The clerk may also decide to dismiss the case if there is no probable cause. The information involving the hearing will remain concealed. The plaintiff could pursue a re-determination, which gives the judge an opportunity to analyze the case again and make another decision. The judge may choose to review the original information from the initial hearing, or they could choose to allow new witnesses or information to be presented.