While waiting for a hardship license hearing at the Driver Control Unit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles today in Boston today, I noticed that several people were attempting to appeal 7 surchargeable events and payment default license suspensions which were triggered by unpaid traffic citations. It should be understood that a citation for civil motor vehicle infractions such as speeding, marked lanes, failure to stop for a stop sign, and the like, must be paid or appealed within twenty (20) days of the date the traffic citation was issued. It is extremely difficult to appeal a citation outside of the 20 day appeal period. The failure to pay or appeal a civil motor vehicle citation after the 20 day period results in an automatic finding of responsibility and a payment default license suspension. This “responsible” finding can be used against you to increase your automobile insurance and suspend your driver’s license for 7 surchargeable events or for being a habitual traffic offender, which will trigger an automatic 4 year license revocation. Because of the consequences associated with failing to appeal or pay a citation within the statutory 20 day period, it is imperative to give Massachusetts traffic citations prompt attention; the failure to do so may result in a suspension of your license or right to operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts.
If you are found driving in Massachusetts after your license or right to drive has been suspended, you can be arrested and prosecuted for Operating After Suspension, a criminal offense which will result in an additional license suspension if you are convicted. Also, unless a late appeal hearing is granted, it is impossible to contest responsibility for a traffic violation after the 20 day period has expired. Many drivers try to litigate their cases years later, when the ticket results in a license suspension. Unless a late appeal is granted, which is a rare event, it is impossible to contest responsibility years or even months after a ticket is issued.
If you have appealed a Massachusetts Uniform Traffic Citation and you fail to appear at your appeal hearing, the Judge or Clerk-Magistrate will find you in default and a responsible finding will automatically be entered against you. If you cannot appear at your hearing, you should immediately contact the Clerk-Magistrate’s office of the District Court where the appeal hearing is being held and request a continuance. Massachusetts Courts rarely grant such continuances, except in extreme circumstances.