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You should come to court on the date and time scheduled for your hearing. Don't arrive late. Unless the hearing notice or posted signs at the courthouse say otherwise, you should report to the clerk-magistrate's office when you arrive at the court.
Your hearing will be conducted by the clerk-magistrate or by an assistant clerk-magistrate. Formal rules of evidence don't apply. The police department will present its evidence to support the charge, and you'll then be allowed to tell the magistrate why you believe you weren't responsible and to offer any other evidence that supports your position, including pictures, documents or witnesses. You're allowed to cross-examine police officers or witnesses during the hearing to the extent and in the manner determined appropriate by the magistrate.
After all the evidence has been presented, the magistrate will make a decision. The magistrate can't issue a warning instead of a citation — only the citing police officer can decide to issue a warning instead of a citation.
The citing officer may not be at your hearing. Instead of the citing officer testifying, a representative of the police department that issued the citation may present a copy of the citation or a police report as evidence. If you were cited only for civil violations, the citation itself is enough evidence of the violation, although it's not conclusive.
If neither the citing officer nor another police department representative appears at the hearing and you do appear, the magistrate will make a finding of not responsible for any civil violations and deny a criminal complaint for any criminal violations.
If you were only cited for civil violations and neither the citing officer or other police representative appears at the hearing, but you don't appear either, your request for a hearing will be dismissed and you must pay the citation.
If you're found responsible for a civil violation, the magistrate will usually issue a civil assessment of the same amount that's written on the citation. You must pay the amount of the civil assessment written on the citation or as reduced by the magistrate directly to the RMV within 20 days. Before the end of the magistrate's hearing, you can request a longer period of time to pay the civil assessment.
Pursuant to statute, the Chief Justice of the District Court has issued the following rules about reductions in these assessments:
"Any reduction from the scheduled assessment should be based upon articulable and well considered differentiation among cases in order that violators in similar positions may be treated similarly, that justice may be seen to be done, and that requests for reduced assessments shall not become routine."
"An offender's intent or knowledge in violating the law generally should not be determinative in deciding whether to impose a reduced assessment. Civil motor vehicle infractions are in the nature of "public order" offenses, enacted to promote public safety without regard to an individual's moral culpability. For the same reason, the absence of offenses in a violator's driving record, or an out-of-state driver's ignorance of Massachusetts traffic laws, should not justify a reduction in the scheduled assessment."
"An assessment should not be reduced based upon the opinion of the judge or magistrate that, without regard to the presence or absence of exceptional circumstances in the individual case, the scheduled assessment for the particular infraction should be less in many or all cases."
If you were only cited for civil violations and you miss your court hearing before a magistrate because you forgot or for another reason that isn't considered good cause beyond your control, you must pay the citation in full to the RMV within 20 days of the scheduled hearing or you'll have to pay substantial fees.
If you miss your court hearing for a good reason that's beyond your control, you can file a motion with the court explaining why you missed your hearing. You should do this immediately, since the court will notify the RMV that you failed to appear. A magistrate has considerable discretion in assessing these motions, and the law doesn't allow you to appeal that decision.
You can't appeal to the Appellate Division if you miss your hearing. By statute, the magistrate or judge must impose the regular civil assessment when a motorist fails to appear at the scheduled hearing. The motorist's only option is a motion to the magistrate or judge requesting that the default be removed and the hearing rescheduled. If the motion is denied, you can't appeal it.
If you were cited for any criminal violations and you miss your show cause hearing before a magistrate because you forgot or for another reason that isn't considered good cause beyond your control, you'll receive a summons to appear in court before a judge. If you ignore the court summons:
If you miss your show cause hearing for a good reason that's beyond your control, you may file a motion with the court explaining why you missed your hearing. You should do this immediately, since the magistrate will normally issue a criminal complaint and a summons for you to appear before a judge. A magistrate has considerable discretion in assessing these motions, and the law doesn't allow you to appeal that decision.