What is a Clerk-Magistrate's Hearing?
Many criminal cases do not begin in court, they begin at a clerk-magistrate's hearing where the victim or the police have to show probable cause to believe that the crime was committed before the charges issue.
Opportunities at a Clerk-Magistrate's Hearing
If you are summonsed to a clerk-magistrate's hearing you should contact a lawyer because those hearings are the last thing standing in between you and a criminal record.
At the clerk magistrate's hearing your lawyer can argue that the case should be dismissed before it ever shows up on the court's docket. Your lawyer can also negotiate a plan to make the alleged victim whole without having to bring the case to court. Even if you dispute the charges, a criminal defense attorney will usually tell you that if you can have the case dismissed at a clerk-magistrate's hearing, it is worth doing rather than having to fight the case in court.
Every case that makes it to court shows up on your criminal record, even if it is ultimately dismissed (unless you successfully petition a court to seal your record). But, if you can resolve the case at the clerk-magistrate's hearing, then the case will be dismissed before it ever reaches the court, and before anything appears on your criminal record.