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Should I Appeal My Traffic Ticket?

Should I Appeal My Traffic Ticket?
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The cost of a traffic ticket goes far beyond the price listed on a piece of paper. For instance, a speeding ticket is considered a minor traffic violation in Massachusetts, but it can increase your insurance premiums by as much as 31%. It will also add points to your driving record. If you’ve had other tickets in the past, these points can add up quickly. Then, they lead to the suspension of your driver’s license. Other traffic tickets could be far more serious and have bigger fines and steeper consequences.

If you receive a traffic ticket, you think you don’t deserve, file an appeal to avoid the consequences. Yet, this typically means going to court, which will generate significant costs as well. So, how do you decide whether to fight the ticket or just pay the costs? The best way to evaluate whether to appeal a traffic ticket in Massachusetts is to consider your personal situation.

Understanding the Traffic Law

To determine the extent of your guilt or innocence, it’s important to understand the laws related to your charge. Surprisingly, police officers don’t always know the exact laws for each charge listed on a ticket. If you can prove that your behavior didn’t violate the law in question, your appeal should be approved.

Consider the law regarding reckless driving. Massachusetts general law defines reckless driving as “upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access, or any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle recklessly, or operates such a vehicle negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered…”

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This definition requires an officer to prove that the defendant operated a motor vehicle, the operation occurred in a public area, and that the operation endangered the lives or safety of the public. If you can prove that your actions failed to meet one of the three criteria mentioned in the law, you have grounds for an appeal. However, if you have a red light ticket with evidence captured on camera, there is little room for argument.

Before you decide whether it’s in your best interest to fight a traffic ticket, take the time to research the charges listed on your traffic ticket and determine whether you violated the associated laws.

Don’t Pay the Ticket

If you’re certain you didn’t commit the infraction, you shouldn’t get in a rush to pay the ticket. Paying a traffic ticket in Massachusetts is considered an admission of guilt. Once you pay the ticket, you claim responsibility, and the impact on your insurance and driving record cannot be reversed. You have 20 days to appeal your traffic ticket. Thus, you should decide within that time whether you want to fight the ticket before late fees are applied.

Weighing the Costs of Paying a Ticket

Should I Appeal My Traffic Ticket?
A police officer on the side of the road as he writes a ticket

There are many things to consider when determining how badly a traffic ticket will affect you in the long run. A single parking ticket isn’t even considered a moving violation, and the fees will likely be minimal in comparison to court costs, attorney fees, and any fines associated with your infraction. On the other hand, a major traffic violation, like driving under the influence or leaving the scene of an accident, will have a bigger impact on your driving record and steeper fines and penalties. Some things to consider when deciding whether it’s worth the cost and hassle of fighting a ticket include:

  • The severity of your offense
  • Your driving history, combined with the effect of this specific ticket
  • Whether you need an attorney to fight the ticket and whether you can afford that cost
  • If you have a viable defense (like an inaccurate speed measurement or significant errors on the ticket)
  • How a license suspension will affect your lifestyle
  • Your level of innocence or guilt
  • Whether your infraction is a civil or criminal offense

How to Appeal a Traffic Ticket in Massachusetts

If you decide to appeal your traffic ticket, it’s important to take action quickly. You must file your appeal within 20 days, or you’ll waive your right to a hearing and will be charged late and release fees in addition to your fine. You can appeal your Massachusetts traffic ticket online or by mail.

  • If you plan to appeal a traffic ticket online, wait 10 days before filing the appeal to provide the RMV with ample time to process the citation. When you’re ready to appeal, gather your citation number, offense date, email address, and a method to pay your application fee. On the registration page, choose “View all outstanding citations” and follow the instructions provided to file your appeal.
  • To request a court hearing by mail, sign and date the back of the citation where indicated in the Box 2 area. Enclose your $25 fee with the citation in the envelope provided. Make your payment out to MassDOT and include your citation number and your driver’s license number on your payment. Check the hearing request/filing fee box on the front of the pre-addressed envelope. Then, mail your appeal to the address shown on the back of the citation.

Once your appeal request is processed, you receive a notification about the date and time of your hearing by mail.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Appeal a Traffic Ticket 

How long will a traffic ticket affect my insurance?

Most insurance companies charge for minor infractions for 3 to 5 years following the charge. However, some companies offer accident forgiveness, and others may offer opportunities to decrease your insurance after receiving a ticket.

How many points will a speeding ticket put on my license?

A typical speeding ticket in Massachusetts is considered a minor traffic violation and will put 2 points on your SDIP record. However, higher rates of speed could be considered more dangerous and be classified differently. It’s also important to consider that if you get 3 or more speeding tickets in a 12 month period, your license could be suspended.

Who will be at the appeal hearing?

The ticketing officer or another representative from the police department should be there to present a copy of the report and any other evidence. If neither the ticketing officer nor another police department representative comes to the hearing, but you do, the magistrate will decide that you’re not responsible for any civil violations and deny a criminal complaint for any criminal violations.

What happens if I miss my hearing?

You should make every effort to attend your hearing. If you expect to be unavailable on the date listed on your ticket, you should reschedule your hearing for a more convenient time. If you miss a scheduled hearing for a reason beyond your control, you can file a motion with the court explaining why you missed it. However, if you simply forgot or decided to avoid the hearing, you must pay a civil ticket to the RMV within 20 days of the hearing date.

If you were ticketed for criminal violations and failed to show up at the hearing without a qualified reason, you’ll receive a summons to appear in court before a judge. Ignoring this summons will result in driver’s license suspension, an arrest warrant, substantial fees, and possibly other penalties.

How can I determine if I have a valid defense to fight my traffic ticket?

While there is no way an appeal can be a guaranteed success, there are certain defenses that hold up better in court than simple excuses. Photographic evidence and eyewitness testimony in your favor are the most valuable assets to help prove your case. Depending on your violation, certain defenses can prove viable, including:

  • Missing, obscured, or damaged traffic signs
  • The officer’s vantage point provided poor visibility of your infraction
  • Your actions were to prevent bodily harm (such as swerving to avoid a pedestrian or other vehicle)
  • Equipment used to prove your violation wasn’t kept in good working order (such as radar that wasn’t routinely calibrated)

Learn More About Appealing Your Traffic Ticket?

Paying the cost of a traffic ticket along with the related expenses like increased insurance premiums and fines can be very expensive over time. Yet, the costs of hiring an attorney and additional court costs could be even more expensive. When you’re trying to determine whether to fight a traffic ticket in Massachusetts, consider your specific situation. When you’re uncertain about how you’ll be affected by a traffic ticket, talking to your independent insurance agent can help. Contact the friendly independent insurance agents at LoPriore insurance to learn more about making the best decision concerning fighting a traffic ticket in Massachusetts.

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