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Thread: Massachusetts: Supreme Court, Pay the ticket guilty or not

  1. #1

    Massachusetts: Supreme Court, Pay the ticket guilty or not

    Massachusetts: Supreme Court Approves Charging Innocent Ticket Recipients

    Innocent drivers can be charged $75 to fight a traffic ticket, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled.

    Motorists issued a traffic ticket in Massachusetts will have to pay money to the state whether or not they committed the alleged crime. According to a state supreme court ruling handed down yesterday, fees are to be imposed even on those found completely innocent. The high court saw no injustice in collecting $70 from Ralph C. Sullivan after he successfully fought a $100 ticket for failure to stay within a marked lane.

    Bay State drivers given speeding tickets and other moving violations have twenty days either to pay up or make a non-refundable $20 payment to appeal to a clerk-magistrate. After that, further challenge to a district court judge can be had for a non-refundable payment of $50. Sullivan argued that motorists were being forced to pay "fees" not assessed on other types of violations, including drug possession. He argued this was a violation of the Constitution's Equal Protection clause, but the high court justices found this to be reasonable.

    "We conclude that there is a rational basis for requiring those cited for a noncriminal motor vehicle infraction alone to pay a filing fee and not requiring a filing fee for those contesting other types of civil violations," Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for the court. "Where the legislature provides greater process that imposes greater demands on the resources of the District Court, it is rational for the legislature to impose filing fees, waivable where a litigant is indigent, to offset part of the additional cost of these judicial proceedings."

    The court insisted that allowing a hearing before a clerk-magistrate instead of an assistant clerk, as well as allowing a de novo hearing before a judge constituted benefits that justified the cost. Last year, the fees for the clerk-magistrate hearings generated $3,678,620 in revenue for the courts. Although Sullivan raised the issue of due process during oral argument, the court would not rule on the merits of that issue.

    "I am disappointed that the SJC did not consider my due process argument," Sullivan told TheNewspaper. "I suppose that some other driver who gets charged with a moving violation will need to consider doing that. At least this decision will give them a blueprint for a focused due process argument."

    Sullivan, an attorney, is not planning on further appeal to the US Supreme Court.

    "While the decision did not go my way, I am safe in the knowledge that I gave it my best shot," Sullivan said. "I took on this case because I felt that it was the right thing to do."

    Source: Salem Police Department v. Sullivan (Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 9/21/2011)

    View the oral argument of "Salem Police Department v. Sullivan" with Windows Media Player - mms://


    March 10, 2011. - September 21, 2011.

    The law challenged in this case, St.2009, c. 27, § 73, merely assesses a filing fee for judicial review of an alleged motor vehicle infraction, and is not criminal or punitive. The question whether a statute is punitive for purposes of ex post facto analysis is one of legislative intent to be discerned from statutory construction, see Commonwealth v. Bruno, 432 Mass. 489, 500 (2000), and it is plain that, in enacting these filing fees, the Legislature intended to reduce the strain on the court system and offset adjudicatory costs, rather than increase the punishment for motor vehicle infractions. The Legislature amended G.L. c. 90C, § 3, in the fiscal year 2010 budget, see St.2009, c. 27, and the fees charged were not applied to every alleged violator cited for an infraction, but only to those who wished to challenge the citation and who were not indigent, without regard to the severity of the underlying infraction or the penalty assessed. See Doe, Sex Offender Registry Bd. No. 10800 v. Sex Offender Registry Bd., 459 Mass. 603, 619-620 (2011) (probation fee not intended as penalty). Cf. Commonwealth v. Cory, 454 Mass. 559, 566 (2009). Nor is " 'the statutory scheme ... so punitive either in purpose or effect as to negate [the State's] intention' to deem it 'civil.' " Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 361 (1997), quoting United States v. Ward, 448 U.S. 242, 248-249 (1980). These circumstances make clear that the filing fees imposed under St.2009, c. 27, § 73, are not punitive and cannot successfully be challenged under the prohibition against ex post facto laws.

    Conclusion. For the reasons described above, we conclude that St.2009, c. 27, §§ 73-74, do not violate equal protection guarantees and that the application of § 73 did not violate the ex post facto clause. We affirm the denial of Sullivan's motion seeking a refund of the filing fees.

    So ordered.
    Last edited by Shuftin; 12-23-11 at 05:19 AM.

  2. #2
    Yep, that's what I paid too. $20 for a hearing with clerk-magistrate (who found me "responsible") and then $50 to appeal that to district judge (who found me "not responsible"). If you are found "responsible" that's considered a "surchargeable event" and you'll pay a lot more than $70 in increased insurance premiums.

  3. #3
    This is the result when one lives in a State that uses infractions rather than crimes. At the end of the video, the appellee states "There is no fundamental Right of free access [to the Courts] in civil cases."

    In the State of Georgia, traffic citations are criminal actions and one goes to criminal Court to be prosecuted.

    The People in Massachusetts fail to realize that the very People whom instigated the court proceeding should be held accountable. Criminally, not civilly. There is your get-evenism remedy. Police officers may start to do a double-take prior to issuing citations if they are held accountable for their actions criminally.

    There are no filing fees in a criminal action. The State reserves the Right to prosecute crime. One needs only to file a criminal complaint, not a complaining complaint [police department] or a civil complaint [civil Court], but a criminal complaint [criminal Court] against the police officers whom instigated the court proceeding.
    Last edited by Shuftin; 12-23-11 at 08:42 PM.

  4. #4
    Glad I stopped fighting, arguing, disputing traffic tickets!
    Attached Files Attached Files

  5. #5
    Interesting letters EZrhythm. Have you been successful with such letters, and post-it note money?

    If you identify yourself properly, wouldn't the "Refusal for Cause" strategy also work on such tickets?
    Last edited by stoneFree; 01-02-12 at 04:31 AM.

  6. #6
    I haven't used the letters but have had satisfaction with R4C. I have been in contact with those who have used the letters, having received testimony of over 20 successes.

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