Massachusetts Court Records
What are Traffic Violations and Infractions in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts traffic laws highlight state traffic regulations. The laws guide road usage and road users in the state. Violations of the state traffic laws are punishable by fines, and in some cases, imprisonment. Other penalties, such as revoking driving privileges, may also apply as defined by state laws. Traffic violations may be civil or criminal, depending on the severity.
Minor traffic law violations are civil violations and are typically punishable by fines or license suspensions. In Massachusetts, civil traffic violations are also known as non-criminal infractions. Criminal traffic violations are more severe and are either felonies or misdemeanors. These violations are punishable by fines, prison terms, or by both fines and prison terms. Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), District Courts, and the Boston Municipal Court handle traffic law violations.
What are Felony Traffic Violations in Massachusetts?
Felony traffic violations are criminal traffic violations. Felonies are serious offenses punishable by incarceration in the state prison for more than two years. Felony traffic violations may also result in fines, a suspension of the offender’s driver’s license, mandatory installation of a grid interlock device, community service, and any other penalty specified by state statutes or ordered by the court.
Generally, felony crimes are the most serious criminal offenses and carry severe penalties. Unlike most states, Massachusetts does not group felonies into classes. Offenses punishable by incarceration in state prison are felonies (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 274 § 1).. Comparatively, misdemeanors are less serious offenses and are punishable by less severe penalties. Traffic offenses that cause death or serious bodily harm are felony offenses. Also, some repeated traffic offenses are felonies in Massachusetts. For example, a third OUI offense within a specified period is a felony. Vehicular Manslaughter is also a felony. In addition to prison terms, felonies are also punishable by fines of up to $25,000.
Examples of Felony Traffic Violations in Massachusetts
The following are examples of felony traffic violations in Massachusetts:
- Third-offense OUI
- Vehicular homicide
- Leaving an accident scene
- Driving with a suspended license
- Giving false information in driver’s license applications
What Are Traffic Misdemeanors in Massachusetts?
Traffic misdemeanors in Massachusetts are criminal traffic offenses punishable by jail terms. Misdemeanors are less severe than felonies; however, misdemeanors are punishable by incarceration in county or city jail for up to 30 months and up to $10,000 in fines. Additionally, penalties such as fines and a suspension of driving privileges may apply. Except where otherwise provided by state statutes, all criminal offenses not classified as felonies are misdemeanors.
Examples of Traffic Misdemeanors in Massachusetts
- Drag racing
- Concealing the identity of a vehicle
- Reckless driving
- Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or intoxicants (OUI)
- OUI child endangerment
- Stealing or falsifying learner permits
- Driving without a valid license
What Constitutes a Traffic Infraction in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, traffic infractions are also known as civil traffic violations. Civil traffic violations are non-criminal violations of state or local traffic laws. In civil traffic violations, there is no death or risk of bodily harm. Compared to felonies and misdemeanors, civil traffic violations are the least serious offenses. Drivers are punished for these offenses with fines through traffic tickets, and in some cases, points against the offender’s driving record. Traffic infractions are not punishable by imprisonment; however, failure to respond to traffic tickets when due may result in additional consequences, including increased fines and a suspension of the driver’s license.
Persons who cannot pay full traffic tickets or fines may petition the court for an installment plan. If such persons prove the inability to the court, the court may grant the petition.
Examples of Traffic Infractions in Massachusetts
- Disobeying traffic signs
- Driving without a seatbelt
- Distracted driving
- Failure to signal a turn
- Failure to yield right of way
- Illegal u-turns
How Do Traffic Tickets Work in Massachusetts?
When road users or motorists violate state or local traffic laws, law enforcement officers issue a notice of violation - this notice is a traffic ticket or a citation. Apart from the criminal and non-criminal classification of traffic offenses, traffic offenses are further classified into moving and non-moving violations. Moving violations often occur when a vehicle is in motion. Speeding is an example of a moving traffic violation. Officials issue speeding tickets to drivers who violate speed limits. In Massachusetts, the fine for speeding depends on how much over the speed limit the offender goes.
Non-moving traffic violations, on the other hand, often occur when a vehicle is stationary, although some non-moving traffic violations occur when a car is in motion. Parking violations are examples of non-moving violations.
Persons issued with civil traffic violation tickets in Massachusetts must respond to the tickets within 20 days. Such parties may respond by paying or appealing the ticket. Paying the ticket is an admission of guilt or an automatic guilty plea, which may lead to points on the offender’s driving record, which may, in turn, lead to increased vehicle insurance premiums. Also, persons who pay ticket fines cannot request a hearing after payment. Payment can be made online or by phone through the RMV’s contact center at:
- For area codes 339, 617, 781, 857 or from outside of Massachusetts: (857) 368–8000
- From all other Massachusetts area codes: (800) 858–3926
- For people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in Massachusetts: (877) 768–8833
Parties may also send payment by mail to:
Citation Processing Center
P. O. Box 55890
Boston, MA 02205–5890
Massachusetts does not accept cash payments by mail. To make payment online or over the phone, the defaulting party will require the ticket or citation number, offense date, and applicable fine. Parties who choose to pay traffic tickets online in Massachusetts must wait ten days after receipt. The wait time will allow the RMV to receive and process the ticket. Parties can pay traffic tickets in person at the courthouse or an RMV office. Traffic tickets typically contain information about payment options and the court at which parties can make payments.
Some cities in Massachusetts, such as Boston and Cambridge, provide alternative payment channels for parking tickets. Defaulting parties may consult the traffic ticket for available payment options where the ticket was issued.
Parties who choose to appeal a traffic ticket and request a hearing may do so online or by mail. The parties will be required to pay court fees in addition to the fine specified on the ticket. If the court dismisses the case or ticket after the hearing, the fines paid will be refunded. However, the court will not refund court fees. Parties interested in appealing a traffic ticket online must wait ten days after receipt. The wait time allows the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to receive and process the ticket.
The court may dismiss traffic tickets if the issuing officer fails to attend the scheduled court hearing for the ticket. Additionally, inconsistencies or incorrect details on the ticket may result in a dismissal. For example, if the recipient’s gender or the offense’s time are incorrectly recorded, the court may dismiss the charge against the recipient.
Some traffic violations result in an assessment of points against the offender’s driving record. The Merit Rating Board (MRB) manages an insurance point system that allows insurance service providers to add surcharges to offenders’ insurance premiums. The Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP) assigns points to surchargeable incidents based on the offense’s severity. The SDIP uses the following classifications:
- Minor traffic violations result in two (2) points
- Minor at-fault traffic accidents result in three (3) points
- Major at-fault accidents result in four (4) points
- Major traffic violations result in five (5) points
Are Driving Records Public in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles offers public, unattested driving records, and attested driving records. In Massachusetts, driving records contain the subject’s license suspension history and traffic violation history. Driving records also include personal information such as driving license number, social security number, and medical information.
Driving records in the U.S. are protected by the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which prohibits unauthorized dissemination of personal information on state driving records. Persons interested in obtaining third-party driving records, or records that contain personal information must submit a notarized signature of the record owner with their request. Such persons must also have eligible request reasons.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Find Driving Records in Massachusetts
The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) maintains driving records in Massachusetts. Driving records contain up to 10 years of driving history. While unattested driving records are best for personal use, true attested driving records contain the official RMV stamp and are best for official or legal services. Requests for driving records may be made online, by mail, or in person. Parties making online requests will be required to provide:
- First and last names as they appear on the driving record
- Driver’s license number
- Driver’s date of birth
- Driver’s social security number
- Requestor’s email address
- For third-party requests, the requestor’s information
Requesting parties will also be required to pay $8 for public unattested driving records and $20 for attested records. Parties interested in making records requests by mail must complete the Public Driving Record Request form. Requesting parties must then mail completed forms, together with money or checks made payable to MassDOT to:
Registry of Motor Vehicles
Court Records Department
P. O. Box 55896
Boston, MA 02205
Interested parties may also request driving records at local RMV centers. Persons requesting personal information on third-party records must complete and submit the Request for Personal Information in RMV Records form. Such persons will be required to specify request reasons and provide notarized authorization from the record’s subject. Requesting parties will also be required to provide driver’s licenses or other state-issued identification cards. Third-party personal information requests may be submitted by mail to:
Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles
P. O. Box 55889
Boston, MA 02205–5889
Can Traffic Violations and Infractions Be Expunged/sealed in Massachusetts?
In most cases, it is not possible to expunge traffic violations and infractions in Massachusetts. When the court expunges a record, the record is permanently erased. Some traffic offenses may also be sealed. Unlike expunged records, sealed records are not permanently erased. Such records are inaccessible to the public but accessible to authorized parties such as the court and law enforcement agencies. The court may seal criminal traffic offense cases in which the court finds a defendant not guilty or where the court dismissed the case may. For eligible criminal traffic offense cases where there is a conviction, requesting parties file a motion to seal the records after five years for misdemeanor offenses and seven years for felony offenses. It may not be possible to seal or expunge records of traffic violations or infractions in Massachusetts outside the above-listed provisions.