If you are ever stopped for a speeding ticket or other moving violation, you do have due process rights, even more than a murder trial. First, sign and return the back of your ticket within 10 (but do it within 2-6) days and ask for a clerk magistrate’s hearing. Then hire a lawyer (like me). Then get to the nearest Registry and ask for a printout of your driving history. Even though the police prosecutor will also have your history, your lawyer will want to get educated on your driving history prior to the hearing. After meeting with your lawyer, prepare an informal resume of all of your good work, whether it be from school, work or charitable causes. The reason for this is because clerk hearings are less about the law (the burden of proof is very low) and more about your driving skills and your good or bad character. Clerks have more discretion than judges but they will only use that discretion if you are presented by your lawyer as a good person who respects the police and the courts. You can bring witnesses and other evidence to these hearings.

The Clerk and you have 3 options; first, pay the ticket at the original speed; second, pay the ticket at a reduced fine; third, thank the Clerk for his time but announce that you intend to appeal to the Judge. There is an appeal charge of $50 (payable that day).The trial will be held usually 6-8 weeks later. On that date you and your lawyer may cross-examine the officer who wrote the ticket and you may present yourself and any other witnesses to testify. You may take photos of the scene, draw a diagram of the area in question and you may hire an expert on radar, lidar or accident reconstruction etc…, if you have money to pay for such an expert. The judge may find you “responsible” (traffic tickets are not a crime) and impose the original fine or lower same, or find you “not responsible”.

If you don’t like the Judge’s decision, you may appeal the case to the Appellate Division (within 10 days and with a $180 filing fee). However, at this stage you and or your lawyer must file a brief, explaining why the trial judge made an error of law. These appeals are tough to win, but it is a third opportunity to vindicate yourself.

I tried hundreds of traffic tickets as an Assistant DA in New York and I sat as a Judge in Massachusetts for 17 years and heard hundreds of traffic ticket trials. If you need help, give me a call at 508-243-4877. Doug Stoddart.