Wednesday 28 September 2011

Massachusetts demands that innocent drivers still pay fines (U.S)

Beware if you're driving in Massachusetts, as the state's supreme court ruled that any motorists given a fine must pay a fee, even if they're found innocent by the court.

The ruling came as a lawyer, locally named as Ralph C. Sullivan, opposed a $100 (£64/€73) fine for not staying within a marked lane. Sullivan finally won his case, but was forced to pay $70 (£45/€51) in court fees.

Angry by the required tribunal costs, Sullivan said that the fee profaned the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. Sullivan gave other offences, like drug possession, aren’t attended by court-ordered fees. Long story short, the court didn't agree with Sullivan, meaning that driver's appealing a ticket to a magistrate have to pay $20 (£13/€15) while those appealing to a district court judge will pay a non-refundable $50 (£32/€37).

“We conclude that there is a rational basis for requiring those cited for a non-criminal motor vehicle infraction alone to pay a filing fee and not requiring a filing fee for those contesting other types of civil violations,” Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for the court. “Where the legislature provides greater process that imposes greater demands on the resources of the District Court, it is rational for the legislature to impose filing fees, waivable where a litigant is indigent, to offset part of the additional cost of these judicial proceedings.”

The year 2010 saw Massachusetts’ courts make $3,678,620 (£2.3m/€2.7m) from traffic fine hearings.

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