The Massachusetts Guide to Dealing with Traffic Tickets

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

No matter if you’ve been driving for six months or 60 years, getting tickets is a fact of life. Now you’ve found yourself with one. Whether this is your first citation or you’ve had a few, what you do next is what matters.

After receiving a Massachusetts traffic ticket, you are faced with some choices. Do you just pay it and put it behind you? Do you fight it? Do you hire an attorney? Do you “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” and hope they can help? Or, do you just ignore it and hope it goes away?  Once you know your options step by step, you can pick the one that works best for you.

Let’s take a look at how you might attack the problem of getting a ticket. Of course, you should start by weighing your options but, after that, what’s next?

(I’m going to save you a little suspense here. That last step, the “safety course” one? That one is almost always your best choice, but who knows? One of the others might work just as well.)

You Got a Ticket. Now What?

Drivers react differently to getting tickets. Some get angry or indignant. Some are gracious, accepting the citation as an invitation to learn better for next time. Others view the infraction karmic-ly, figuring that even if they didn’t deserve the ticket this time, they probably got away with it (or worse) a dozen times in the past.

It’s not important if you experienced one of these reactions or something completely different. What is important is what you choose to do next. All you know is that you want to deal with this inconvenience with as little effort and expense as possible.

You could choose the zero effort and expense route and do nothing. I tried that once. It did not go well.

I Ignored a Ticket and it Was Fine, Until it Got Awkward (and Expensive)

You could just pay the darn thing and chalk the fine up to hard-earned experience. This option is fairly low on the effort scale but fairly high on the expense side. And it won’t just be expensive now; it’ll be expensive later when your insurance renews.

You may feel that your ticket represented an attack on your driving superiority, and now you’re out for justice. What will it take to beat your ticket with an attorney?

Hire a Lawyer and Fight, Fight, Fight

Maybe you’ve seen billboards with pictures of smiling (or sometimes scowling) attorneys promising to join in your traffic-related crusade. Is this your best answer in terms of time and expense?

The internet is crawling with attorneys ready to go to war for you over your traffic ticket. Don’t believe me? Google “fight ticket with Massachusetts attorney” and see how many results you get.

Most of these sites will boast of a 90%+ success rate, and many will make promises like

“Full refund if we are unable to keep the ticket off your record!”

Some of these will claim they’ll pay for your ticket as well.

These sites will also offer statistics encouraging you to employ them by implying you’d be stupid not to.

“One in four tickets is issued in error, yet only 5% of drivers contest their traffic tickets.”

Do you want to be in the 95% of suckers who don’t?

If you’re the type who likes to drive fast all the time, this may be an option. Many law firms have monthly memberships that will allow you to have…

“Unlimited back-and-forth with traffic lawyers. Chat with certified lawyers until you’re satisfied. About any legal issue—from big to small, and everything in between.”

The fight-it-with-a-lawyer option works like this:

Factoring in the time spent shopping for a lawyer, this option is fairly moderate on the effort scale. But, depending on what the firm charges, it may remain pretty high on the expense chart. At least your insurance won’t go up if the attorney manages to keep the ticket off your record.

But Your Honor, You Have to Understand…

You could skip hiring an attorney and head to the courthouse yourself and request a mitigation hearing or a contested hearing.

A mitigation hearing is one where you request leniency because the fine represents an excessive financial burden. If you are successful, the court may reduce your fine, put you on a monthly payment plan, or allow you to work off your debt with community service.

A contested hearing is one you attend to try getting the conviction overturned.

Good luck. Hope you win.

(On the other hand, if you have a minute, you could fall down this rabbit hole to find the origins of what might be a remarkably apt quote in this situation).

As for a Massachusetts Driver Safety Course…

Unlike most states, Massachusetts does not allow drivers to dismiss traffic citations by completing a driver safety course. However, the Registry of Motor Vehicles may require drivers to take one of the following courses depending on the nature of their violation.

The 8-hour Driver Retraining Program

This course is required of drivers who have been convicted of three or more violations or have accumulated an excessive number of points on their driving records. This course will be mandated either by an individual court or the Registry of Motor Vehicles. When the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles notifies you of your course requirement, you will be instructed as to the specific course you must take, the date by which you must complete it, and any additional fees or documentation you will need to submit to complete the process.

The 4-Hour Defensive Driving Course, “Alive at 25.”

This course is one of two courses that may be required of drivers aged 16-24 who have had their license suspended due to junior operator penalties. It is a highly interactive course targeted to this age group as 16-24-year-old drivers are the most likely drivers to be killed in automobile crashes.

The 4-Hour Defensive Driving Course, “SCAAR.”

The State Courts Against Road Rage course is the other course that may be required for 16-24-year-olds who have lost their licenses due to junior operator penalties. This course is mandatory as well, and its purpose is to teach young drivers about the consequences of dangerous driving and improve their driving behaviors.

But Didn’t You Say Taking a Driver Safety Course was My Best Choice?

I did, and it is.

Although you can’t dismiss a ticket with a course, taking one can ease the sting of having to pay for it.

Most major insurance companies offer some type of “safe driver discount” for policyholders who voluntarily complete a driver safety course. Insurance companies understand that better-educated drivers make safer drivers and that safer drivers have fewer accidents. With fewer claims to pay, the companies save money and will pass those savings back to you.

Check with your insurance company to see if this is an option for you. The company will let you know what courses they accept and the procedures for submitting your certificate of completion so you can start enjoying your discount. If you’re curious how much the savings might be worth, this article dives a little into the actual math.

Can Defensive Driving Lower Insurance?

Even if you aren’t eligible for an insurance discount, you may still want to consider taking a defensive driving course. Defensive driving will provide you with information that will make you a safer and more responsible driver, making the roads safer for all of us and make you less likely to see any more tickets in the future.