Innocent Of Speeding? In MA, You'll Pay Up Anyway

September 22, 2011

Going to traffic court used to be so simple. If you were found guilty, you paid the fine and associated costs, then went home to wait for your auto insurance premium to increase.

Those days are gone, at least in Massachusetts: if you’re found not guilty of a traffic offense there, you still get to pay fees out of pocket for the appeal of your citation to a clerk-magistrate (which costs $20), or the appeal of your citation to a higher authority, a district court judge (which will set you back another $50).

The Massachusetts Supreme Court just ruled that these fees were reasonable, and not in violation of the state constitution’s equal protection clause, even for motorists found innocent of all charges. The double standard? Those arrested on, say, drug charges, have no fees levied against them when declared innocent.

In their verdict, the Massachusetts Supreme Court rationalized that getting the chance to appeal before a clerk-magistrate or a district court judge cost the state money; hence, they were simply passing that cost along to the motorist. Indigent motorists (which sounds like an oxymoron to us) can petition to have the fees waived.

For Massachusetts courts, this is a lucrative business to be in. The Newspaper reports that revenue from the appeals process before clerk-magistrates raised nearly $3.7 million in revenue for the courts last year.

Image Credit: Flickr user Brian Turner, Creative Commons 2.0

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