In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, all traffic citations that are given to citizens are termed ‘uniform citations.’ This refers to the fact that all traffic citations are provided to the individual on one, standard traffic citation document.
The purpose of the uniform traffic citation is to ensure that the process of giving out citations to citizens of Massachusetts is standardized and uniform across all types of traffic violations.
There are four types of traffic citation that are covered on the uniform citation:
- Civil infractions, such as most speeding tickets, or expired registration
- Criminal infractions, such as reckless driving, or DUI
- A citation that is used in an arrest
- A citation that is used for a warning
When you receive the uniform citation, the law enforcement officer will have checked off one of the boxes on the front side of the citation.
All Civil Infractions
If the ‘All Civil Infractions’ box is marked, you will need to pay the fine or appeal the citation in front of the magistrate. Within 20 days, you need to check one of two boxes on the back of the uniform citation:
- Box 1 to pay the fine
- Box 2 to ask for a hearing, or appeal
- You then need to sign the citation and mail it into the Magistrate.
Civil infractions include the following:
- Running red light
- Crossing marked lanes
Civil charges will result in you being charged a fine, which you must pay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Speeding fines are determined by how far over the speed limit you were going in terms of MPH.
The minimum fine for speeding is $100, which is for going one to 10 MPH over the limit. For every mile per hour over 10, multiply that number by 10. So if you were going 15 MPH over the limit, the fine is $150. If you were speeding in a construction zone, the fine is doubled.
Civil traffic charges do not lead to arrest. Note that all citizens have the right to appeal a civil citation in front of a clerk magistrate. You just need to follow the procedures that are listed on the back of the citation.
If the ‘Criminal Application’ box is marked, you will need to sign the citation and return it to the Magistrate of the court that is named on the front of the document. This must occur within four days. You will then be given a hearing to determine whether a criminal complaint should be levied against you.
There are some cases where a criminal complaint can be issued due to a traffic stop. Some of the most common criminal charges for traffic violations are:
- Driving to endanger
- Failure to stop for the police
- Driving without a license
Criminal charges may or may not result in your being arrested. If you are cited for a criminal charge, you are not levied a fine right away. Instead, you have to go to court to answer the charges. Fines or other penalties are determined by the judge.
Criminal charges cannot be appealed in the same way as civil charges. Rather, appeals need to be filed by your attorney after you first appear in court.
You may bring the uniform citation with you to the court yourself, or you can mail it. But it MUST be received by the court within four days. It is advisable to use registered mail in this case.
You cannot pay the fine for a criminal citation by mail. It is advisable if you have a criminal complaint against you, such as reckless driving, that you secure an experienced, expert attorney immediately.
If you have been issued a uniform citation, you should consult with an experienced attorney immediately, such as Attorney Geoffrey Nathan, to contest the charges.
Note: A ticket may seem not as serious as a summons from a court, but a criminal offense on a ticket is a serious matter. This can have long-lasting effects on your life. A criminal charge is a criminal charge, so you should consider hiring an experienced traffic offense attorney to fight the charge.
When you got to the criminal clerk magistrate hearing, the magistrate will listen to evidence from the police. Then, they will consider testimony and evidence that is offered by your attorney.
Note that it is very important that you appear in court on the exact date and time that the hearing has been booked. It is never a good idea to be late for this hearing.
When you first arrive, you should talk to the clerk at the office of the magistrate. This hearing also may be called a probable cause or show cause hearing.
Formal evidence rules do not apply in this hearing. The police gives their evidence to support the charge, and then you can talk about why you do not think you are responsible. You also can provide evidence that includes documents, pictures and witnesses.
If you are facing a criminal charge, the magistrate will determine if there is probable cause for the complaint against you. If the complaint is issued, you have a right to a trial by judge or by jury.
If it is issued, your case then is set up to be arraigned before the district court judge. It is there that you will be formally charged with the criminal offense.
You are strongly advised to not go to the arraignment without the help of an experienced attorney.
You also can receive a warning on the Massachusetts Uniform Citation. If the box on the ticket that is marked ‘warning’ above the officer’s signature, then you do not need to take any action.
A warning should not affect your merit rating or your insurance rates. However, if you accumulate three in a year, your license could be suspended. There is not any appeal procedure to contest warnings.
Remember, if you are facing a civil or criminal traffic charge, you are usually far better off to be represented by an experienced defense attorney such as Attorney Nathan.