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Massachusetts has many traffic laws and regulations that, if violated, provide for a range of penalties. Minor traffic offenses are considered “misdemeanors,” which usually involve fines, points, and potential license lost, while the more severe offenses are considered “felonies,” which can result in significant fines, more points, and possible incarceration.
Surprisingly, speeding tickets and many moving violations in Massachusetts are not criminal offenses, but rather civil matters. As a result, if you get a speeding ticket in Massachusetts, your case will be initially heard before a clerk magistrate. At this hearing, you may be asked to testify. As this hearing is civil in nature, you can not be compelled to testify. The police officer who gave you the speeding ticket is not obligated to appear for this initial hearing and you are unlikely to have the opportunity to cross-examine this police officer.
Typically, a representative from the police department, called the police prosecutor, will be present. A police prosecutor is a representative from the police department who serves as a liaison between the court and police department.
During the hearing, this police prosecutor typically reads a summary of the events written by the citing officer from the back of the police officer’s copy of the ticket. Also at this hearing, the evidentiary threshold is lessened to a “preponderance of the evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
If the clerk magistrate finds you responsible, then you can exercise your right to a hearing before a judge. This hearing is the equivalent of a bench trial, where the citing police officer is required to appear. During this hearing, you can present evidence and cross exam the police officer.
If you were charged with driving without a valid driver’s license, you will only have a very limited time (which be as little as a few days) to challenge the charge. The applicable time period and the instructions on how to request a criminal clerk magistrate’s hearing concerning your charge will be listed on the back of your citation providing information.
Your ticket might also include a notice (called a summons) to appear for a clerk magistrate hearing or to appear for an arraignment. If you receive an arraignment notice, I can help protect your interests.
In an arraignment for driving without a valid license, normally a person will be formally charged for this offense, which constitutes a violation of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 § 10. At this time, I can represent you and speak on your behalf, and enter a plea of not guilty. I can also address issues related to custody and bail. After the arraignment, I will continue to investigate the specific facts of your case while also contacting the prosecuting assistant district attorney to try and resolve your matter as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Reckless driving and negligent operation charges are slightly different, although the penalties for such matters may be the same. Reckless driving may be thought of as intentionally operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous way, while negligent operation consists of operating a vehicle in such a way that the lives or safety of the public is put at risk, although the person does not necessarily need to be aware that they are causing a danger.
Conviction of either of these charges can result in a fine, loss of driver’s license, and/or possible incarceration.
One of the most serious traffic offenses in Massachusetts is leaving the scene of an accident. This is especially true if bodily injury or death resulted.
The specific laws for hit and run in Massachusetts can be seen in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 § 24. This section provides that a driver can be charged and convicted with leaving the scene of an accident (hit and run) if there is evidence showing that the driver (i) did in fact operate a motor vehicle upon a public way or a way the public has a right of access and (ii) without stopping and without providing their name, home address and vehicle registration number, knowingly left the scene after colliding with another motor vehicle, property, or person.
A conviction for hitting a piece of property (such as an empty vehicle parked on a public street) and leaving the scene is punishable by up to two years in jail. In addition, a conviction will likely result in the loss of driving privileges for at least sixty days and possibly up to one year.
If a hit-and-run collision involves injury or death, the penalties are much more severe. In this case, a felony charge can result, and a conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Because the penalties for hit and run are serious, it’s important to get an experienced lawyer on your side who will advocate vigorously on your behalf, and seeking to preserve your legal innocence. This may entail contesting the evidence presented by the prosecution showing who caused the crash, or showing if you left the scene of an accident but did not actually know that you hit another vehicle or some other type of property, that you lacked the intent to actually flee the scene and could result in these charged being dropped or reduced.
If you or a loved one was charged with speeding, running a red light, drunk driving/OUI, reckless driving, or another traffic offense, get the experienced legal representation you deserve.
As a Massachusetts traffic lawyer, I know what is at stake and am here to help. With over a decade of criminal defense and legal practice, I work vigorously on behalf of clients in seeking the best outcome possible.
I offer a free, confidential consultation so that you can be candid and explain what happened. I typically represent clients on a flat-fee basis, and accept credit card payments. I invite you to find out how I can help.
More Information About Lowell Traffic Ticket Legal Matters:
WORTH THE MONEY! I hired Paul King for a motor vehicle infraction and I am very impressed with his legal representation. He was professional, sincere, and did all the talking for me. He convinced the hearing officer and the magistrate that I was a safe and responsible driver. I was found not responsible and I would hire him again in the future!!
Google Review 5 Stars – L.B.