Massachusetts law about traffic violations

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on traffic violations law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.85, § 15 Lights on vehicles
Headlights must be on when windshield wipers are needed

MGL c.89, § 7C Move over law
Requires drivers to move "into a lane not adjacent to that of the emergency response vehicle, highway maintenance vehicle or recovery vehicle" whenever possible.

MGL c.90, Motor Vehicles

  • MGL. c.90, § 3 Motor vehicles owned by non-residents
    A nonresident enrolled as a student at a school or college in the commonwealth who operates a motor vehicle registered in another state must file with local police a statement that provides ownership, registration information, and liability insurance coverage information.
  • MGL c.90, § 7AA Child passenger restraints
  • MGL c.90 § 8 Operator's licenses
    An applicant for the renewal of a license 75 years of age or older shall apply for a renewal in person at a registry branch office.
  • MGL c.90 § 8M Use of mobile telephone, hands-free mobile telephone or mobile electronic device by person under 18 years of age while operating motor vehicle prohibited
  • MGL c.90 § 13B  Composing, sending or reading of electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle prohibited
  • MGL c.90, s.14A Commonly known as the Mass. White Cane Law
    Provides protection for blind pedestrians crossing or attempting to cross ways

MGL c.90C Procedure for Motor Vehicle Offenses

Massachusetts regulations

211 CMR 74  Standards of Fault

211 CMR 134  Safe Driver Insurance Plan
Lists minor and major traffic accidents and offenses which subject the violator to "points" on their auto insurance

540 CMR  Registry of Motor Vehicles

700 CMR 7.04  Electronic Toll Collection

Federal regulations

76 FR 75470 Restricting the Use of Cellular Phones by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers, as corrected by 76 FR 82179 
Restricts the use of hand-held mobile telephones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs)

Selected case law

Commonwealth v. Buckley, 478 Mass. 861 (2018) Pretextual stops
Police may stop a vehicle for an observed traffic violation, even if it is actually a pretext to investigate other crimes. 

Commonwealth v. Mongardi, 26 Mass. App. Ct. 5 (1988)
A person issued a citation for a civil Motor vehicle infraction has no right to jury trial.  

Commonwealth v. O'Leary, 480 Mass. 67 (2018)
Extensive discussion of the "no-fix" law, MGL c.90C, s.2.  "A Superior Court judge properly dismissed indictments charging the defendant with various  motor vehicle offenses, where a State police trooper did not give the defendant a copy of the  citation at the time and place of the violation, and where the nine-day delay in the issuance  of the citation, in the absence of any justification, contravened the antiabuse purpose of the  “no-fix” provision of G. L. c. 90C, § 2."

Commonwealth v. Ortiz, 478 Mass. 820 (2018)
A "driver's consent to allow police officers to search for narcotics or firearms 'in the vehicle' did not authorize an officer to search under the hood of the vehicle."

Crawford v. Blue, 271 F.Supp.3d  (2017)
Massachusetts' non-refundable $25 filing fee to challenge a motor vehicle ticket violates due process, and so motorists who successfully challenge their ticket before a Clerk-Magistrate are entitled to a refund of their $25 filing fee by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Gillespie v. City of Northampton, 460 Mass. 148 (2011)
"[T]he imposition of $275 in filing fees to obtain judicial review of a final decision of a municipal parking clerk regarding a parking citation [does not offend] the Massachusetts Constitution."

Police Department of Salem v. Sullivan, 460 Mass. 637 (2011)
Court OKs substantial filing fees to contest civil motor vehicle citations. In footnote 7, the court states, "the requirement in St.2009, c. 27, § 74, of a fifty dollar fee to appeal the clerk-magistrate's finding is in conflict with rule VII(b)(3) of the Trial Court Rules, the Uniform Rule on Civil Motor Vehicle Infractions (LexisNexis 2010–2011), which states that '[t]here shall be no filing fee for an appeal to a judge from the finding and disposition of a clerk-magistrate. We recognize that, where a court rule is in irreconcilable conflict with a statute, 'the statute supersedes the rule.'"

Web sources

AAA Digest of Motor Laws
An "online compendium of laws and rules related to driving and owning a motor vehicle in the United States and Canada." Select a topic such as accident reporting, move over law, seatbelts and more, and get easy access to the laws of all 50 states

Appeal your traffic ticket, Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Explains how to appeal a ticket.

Beat Your Ticket: Go to Court & Win, Nolo, 2013
Includes discussion on speed detectors, presenting your case, traffic rules for all 50 states and more. Requires Library Card for access

Cell Phone and Texting Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association, 2018
Provides a chart of all state cell phone and text messaging laws

Clear snow from your car or get pulled over, state police warn drivers, MassLive.com, March 2018.
"In Massachusetts, police can use a couple of statutes to enforce snow-clearing. ...officers can issue a $40 fine for impeded operation if a driver has obstructed windows and a $200 fine for driving with an unsecured load, which can include heavy sheets of snow or ice on a car's roof."

Discretionary, mandatory, and public safety suspensions, Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Provides a list and brief description of types of suspensions and revocations.

Traffic Tickets, Mass. District Court
"Find information about motor vehicle violations, what to do if you get a traffic ticket, and how to appeal a motor vehicle citation and court decision."

How to Win Your Case in Traffic Court Without a Lawyer, Atlantic Publishing, 2009
While not specific to Massachusetts, provides helpful information on how to prepare to go to court to contest a ticket. Requires library card for access

IIHS research bibliography, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Search for statistics and laws on highway safety issues by topic. Also details selected motor vehicle laws by state, including cell phone laws, seat belt and child seat laws, marijuana lawsalcohol interlock laws, and more. 

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), Federal Highway Administration, 2009 edition. MUTCD defines the standards used nationwide to install and maintain the signs, signals, and pavement markings on all streets and highways. See also: Massachusetts Amendments to the 2009 MUTCD (2012)

Massachusetts Driver's Manuals, Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles
These manuals include all the key information needed to drive legally in Massachusetts. Chapters include: obtaining your license, keeping your license, rules of the road, and more

Pay a Citation Online, Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles

Citable Motor Vehicle Offenses and CMVI Assessments, effective October 23, 2013
Lists the fines for motor vehicle infractions, and indicates offenses which carry criminal penalties

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: July 5, 2019
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