In Massachusetts, speeding and other violations can affect not only your wallet for the fine, but your insurance premiums and even your right to drive.
Most offenses are known as surchargeable offenses. If you choose to pay the citation, your insurance company can raise your insurance premiums for each offense on the ticket. In addition, the Registry of Motor Vehicles keeps track of the number of surchargeable offenses on your driving record, and can suspend your license if they accumulate over certain time periods.
The Appeals Process
If you choose to appeal the ticket, sign the back, and check off the box requesting a hearing. Mail the ticket within 20 days to the address listed. It is wise to keep a copy of the citation. The RMV will send you a notice that the citation was received with a request for a $25.00 filing fee. Pay the fee within 20 days or you could lose your right to a hearing. Once the fee is paid, the RMV will send the paperwork to the court, who schedules you for a clerk magistrate hearing.
The clerk magistrate hearing is your first chance to have the ticket disposed of. The clerk will listen to the information on the ticket, and then allow you or your attorney to speak as to your version of the facts. The clerk will make a decision as to the outcome, which will either be responsible, with some fine attached, or not responsible.
If you receive a not responsible, the police prosecutor has the right to appeal to a judge hearing. If he does not, the matter is finished. You will not have to pay the fine, and the events will not count as surchargeable on your driving record.
If you receive a responsible finding, with the full fine or a reduced fine, you may either choose to accept the finding or appeal to a judge hearing. If you accept the finding, you will have 20 days to pay the ticket, and the event will be recorded as a surchargeable event. If you choose to appeal, you must pay the court a $50.00 appeal fee, and the matter will be scheduled for a judge hearing.
In Massachusetts, there is no way to pay a fine and eliminate the surcharge from your record.
If you elect to have a judge appeal, the officer that cited you will be summonsed to court. If he fails to appear, you win by default.. If the officer does appear, a full trial is held on the merits. The officer must show by a preponderence of the evidence (more likely than not) that you violated the statutes that you were cited under. The officer is allowed to testify. You or your attorney have the right to cross examine the officer. Then you have the right to testify on your own behalf.
The judge will make a determination that you are responsible at some fine, or that you are not responsible. If the clerk offered to reduce the fine for you, the judge still may impose the full fine, or may find you not responsible. He is not bound by the clerk’s decision.
Most cases end after the judge appeal, however, you may have a case that can be appealed to the appellate division. To excercise this appeal, you must argue that the judge made an error of law in your case. An argument that he made a factual judgment error is not enough to proceed. This is a costly appeal and will most likely not be successful.