If you drive long enough chances are very good that you will eventually get a traffic ticket. Even if you are a law abiding citizen and do your best to obey all the rules of the road, you could still end up in the cross-hairs of a radar gun or in the sights of an overzealous law enforcement officer one day. If that occurs, you can simply pay the ticket and move on or challenge the ticket. Before deciding how to handle your ticket you should consider what happens if you take a ticket to trial and are found guilty in Massachusetts.
Traffic tickets come in two basic forms – moving and non-moving violations. A moving violation, as the name implies, occurs when the vehicle is in motion. A speeding ticket, for example, is a moving violation. A non-moving violation refers to something that has nothing to do with actually driving. Parking in a handicapped parking space, for instance, could garner you a non-moving violation. Regardless of the type of ticket you receive, you have the option to challenge the ticket and request a trial.
To challenge your traffic ticket you must do so within a short period of time – 20 days in Massachusetts. First, you must be certain that all the offenses are civil infractions. This will be clearly indicated on the ticket itself. If you are only charged with civil infractions you can mark the box labeled “Request a hearing” to challenge the ticket. You will then return the ticket, along with the required filing fee, and wait a hearing date.
Traffic hearings are less formal than a criminal prosecution; however, that does not mean you will automatically win your case. On the contrary, because a traffic ticket is a civil infraction, the burden of proof required to convict you is less than it would be in a criminal prosecution. Simply alleging that the officer is wrong is not likely to win your case. If it boils down to your word against that of an officer it will almost always result in a finding of guilty.
If you are found guilty, the judge will impose a fine for the violation. In some cases, if the amount of the fine is discretionary a judge will impose a higher fine simply because you took up the court’s time by contesting the ticket. Along with the fine you may also be ordered to pay court costs and/or do something specific such as get a muffler fixed or correct your registration. In that case you may be required to return to court to show the judge you have complied with the order.
If you have received a traffic ticket in Massachusetts and wish to contest the ticket, consult with an experienced Massachusetts traffic ticket attorney before doing anything else.