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General Laws

Section 3. (A) (1) If a police officer observes or has brought to the officer’s attention the occurrence of a civil motor vehicle infraction, the officer may issue a written warning or may cite the violator for a civil motor vehicle infraction in accordance with this subsection. If the officer issues a citation solely for one or more civil motor vehicle infractions without any associated criminal violations, the officer shall indicate on the citation the scheduled assessment for each civil motor vehicle infraction alleged.

(2) The citation shall notify the violator that within twenty days of the date of the citation the violator must, for each civil motor vehicle infraction alleged, either pay the scheduled assessment or contest responsibility for the infraction by requesting a noncriminal hearing before a magistrate of the district court.

(3) The violator shall pay the assessment indicated by the officer for each such infraction within twenty days of the date of the citation: (a) by mailing the total amount of the indicated assessment, along with the citation appropriately marked, to the registrar at the address indicated on the citation, or (b) by delivering, personally or through an agent duly authorized in writing, the total amount of the indicated assessment, along with the citation appropriately marked, to any office of the registrar during normal business hours. Payment may be made in such forms, including payment by credit card or other recognized form of electronic payment, as the registrar shall determine.

Payment of the indicated assessment shall operate as a final disposition of the matter. The violator shall not be required to report to any probation officer, and no record of the matter shall be entered in any criminal or probation records of any court. The payment of the indicated assessment shall not be admissible as an admission of guilt, responsibility or negligence in any criminal or civil proceeding, except that such payment shall be an admission of responsibility and shall operate as a conviction for purposes of any action by the registrar pursuant to chapter ninety and for purposes of the safe driver insurance plan established by section one hundred and thirteen B of chapter one hundred and seventy-five.

(4) A violator may contest responsibility for the infraction by making a signed request for a noncriminal hearing on the back of the citation and mailing such citation, together with a $25 court filing fee, to the registrar at the address indicated on the citation within 20 days of the citation. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the registrar, in cooperation with the state comptroller, upon receipt of the $25 court filing fee, shall immediately cause the court filing fee to be transferred to the trial court department to be held as retained revenue; provided, however, that the registrar may retain from the court filing fees an amount not greater than $200,000 for fiscal year 2011 for information technology associated with the implementation of this section; and provided, further that the registrar may retain an amount not greater than $100,000 annually for personnel costs associated with the processing of those filing fees.

A violator who does not, within twenty days of the date of the citation, request a noncriminal hearing shall not thereafter be given such a hearing, unless the registrar shall determine that the failure to make such a request timely was for good cause that was not within the control of the violator. The registrar’s determination of such issue shall be final.

The registrar shall notify the clerk-magistrate of the district court for the judicial district in which the infraction occurred of such request for a noncriminal hearing, in such manner as the chief justice of the district court department and the registrar shall jointly determine. Unless a hearing date and time has already been assigned pursuant to procedures jointly established by the chief justice of the district court department and the registrar, the clerk-magistrate shall notify the police agency concerned and the violator of the date and time of the hearing before a magistrate of the court.

If the hearing is conducted by a magistrate other than a justice, either the violator or the police agency concerned may appeal the decision of the magistrate to a justice, who shall hear the case de novo. Any violator so appealing the decision of a magistrate shall be responsible for paying a fee of $50 prior to the scheduling of the appeal hearing before a justice. There shall be no right of jury trial for civil motor vehicle infractions.

In any such hearing before a magistrate or justice, the citation shall be admissible and shall be prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. Compulsory process for witnesses may be had by either party in the same manner as in criminal cases. On a showing of need in advance of such hearing, the magistrate or justice may direct that the violator be permitted to inspect specific written documents or materials in the possession of the police officer or agency concerned that are essential to the violator’s defense.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the magistrate or justice shall announce a finding of responsible or not responsible. The magistrate or justice shall enter a finding of responsible if it was shown by a preponderance of the credible evidence that the violator committed the infraction alleged; otherwise the magistrate or justice shall enter a finding of not responsible. No other disposition shall be permitted, and such matters shall not be continued without a finding, dismissed, or filed.

If the violator is found responsible after a noncriminal hearing, the magistrate or justice shall require the violator to pay to the registrar an assessment which shall not exceed the scheduled assessment for that infraction. Such assessment shall be in accordance with any guidelines promulgated by the chief justice of that department of the trial court, which shall be binding on magistrates and justices, to the end that such assessments are made as uniformly as possible, and which may include provisions requiring a prescribed or a minimum assessment for specified civil motor vehicle infractions.

The violator shall pay to the registrar the assessment imposed by the magistrate or justice within twenty days of the date the violator is personally notified or is mailed notice of the decision of the magistrate or justice, unless for good cause the magistrate or justice allows the violator a longer time to pay the imposed assessment.

The violator’s obligation to pay such imposed assessment shall automatically be stayed during the pendency of any timely appeal to the appellate division or any subsequent appeal to an appellate court. The violator shall be required to pay such imposed assessment to the registrar within twenty days of the date the appellate division or the appellate court renders a decision that is adverse to the violator and that has not been further appealed.

(5) Questions of law arising in the disposition of a civil motor vehicle infraction in a noncriminal hearing before a justice may be appealed to the appellate division. Such appeals shall be governed by a simplified method of appeal established by rules promulgated by the chief justice of the district court department, subject to the approval of the supreme judicial court. Claims of appeal shall be accompanied by an entry fee in an amount established by the chief justice of the trial court. Proceedings under this chapter shall not be reviewable by a civil action in the nature of certiorari.

(6) (a) If a violator:

(i) fails either to pay the full amount of the scheduled assessment to the registrar or to request a noncriminal hearing within twenty days of the date of the citation plus such grace period as the registrar shall allow, or

(ii) fails to appear for a noncriminal hearing before a magistrate or a justice at the time required after having been given notice of such hearing either personally or by first class mail directed to such violator’s mail address as reported to the registrar and after notice of such failure has been given to the registrar by the clerk-magistrate, the registrar shall notify such violator by first class mail directed to such violator’s mail address that unless and until the violator pays to the registrar the full amount of the scheduled or imposed assessments for such civil motor vehicle infractions, plus any late fees or other administrative fees provided for by law or regulation:

(i) in the case of an operator violation, such violator’s operators license, learners permit or right to operate will be suspended by operation of law and without further notice or hearing at the expiration of thirty days from the date of the mailing of such notice, and any license to operate a motor vehicle issued to such violator by the registrar will not be renewed upon or after the expiration date of such license; or

(ii) in the case of an owner violation, any registration of a motor vehicle issued to such violator will be suspended by operation of law and without further notice or hearing at the expiration of thirty days from the date of the mailing of such notice, and any registration of a motor vehicle issued to such violator by the registrar will not be renewed upon or after the expiration date of such registration.

Unless such notice is sooner cancelled by the registrar, in the case of an operator violation, such violator’s operators license, learners permit or right to operate, or in the case of an owner violation any registration of a motor vehicle issued to such violator by the registrar, shall be deemed suspended by operation of law on the date indicated on the notice mailed by the registrar, and shall remain suspended until reinstated by the registrar upon payment of the scheduled or imposed assessments for such civil motor vehicle infractions, plus any late fees or other administrative fees which the registrar is required or authorized by law or regulation to impose, unless such fees are waived in whole or in part by the registrar.

(b) If a violator attempts to pay a scheduled assessment with a check, credit card, debit card, or any other payment method that is returned unpaid or rejected, or fails to pay the full amount of an assessment imposed by a magistrate or justice pursuant to this section within the time allowed plus such grace period as the registrar shall allow, the registrar shall revoke any operator’s license, learner’s permit, certificate of registration or title, number plate, sticker, decal or other item issued by the registrar and held by the violator and order the return thereof forthwith. Such violator may not apply for or receive any operators license, learners permit, certificate of registration or title, number plate, sticker, decal or other item issued by the registrar until such amount has been paid in full, plus any late fees or other administrative fees which the registrar is required or authorized by law or regulation to impose, unless such fees are waived in whole or in part by the registrar.

(c) Payment of a scheduled assessment or an assessment imposed by a magistrate or justice pursuant to this section, plus any late fees or other administrative fees provided for by law or regulation, shall operate as a final disposition of the matter. The violator shall not be required to report to any probation officer, and no record of the matter shall be entered in any criminal or probation records of any court.

(B) (1) If a police officer observes or has brought to the officer’s attention the occurrence of an automobile law violation that constitutes a criminal offense, the police officer: (a) may direct that a written warning be issued; (b) may arrest the violator without a warrant in accordance with the provisions and limitations of section twenty-one of chapter ninety for such offenses as are specified in that section; or (c) may determine that an application for criminal complaint shall be filed.

(2) If the police officer determines that an application for criminal complaint shall be filed, the officer shall so indicate on the citation. The citation shall notify the violator that a violator accused of a misdemeanor, with no accompanying felony, will be granted a hearing before such complaint issues, as provided in section thirty-five A of chapter two hundred and eighteen, if the violator so requests in writing within four days of the violation to the clerk-magistrate of the district court for the judicial district where the offense occurred. Such notification on the citation shall satisfy the notice requirements of section thirty-five A of chapter two hundred and eighteen.

The citation shall serve as the application for criminal complaint, supplemented if necessary with such additional information as shall be required by the administrative justice of the district court department. If a criminal complaint is issued, the procedure established for criminal cases shall then be followed. Each police chief may, from time to time, designate one person to sign all such complaints.

(3) If a violator in the case of a citation which alleges one or more criminal automobile law violations:

(a) fails without good cause to appear in court as required after having been summonsed or after having been given notice to appear either personally or by first class mail directed to such person’s mail address as reported to the registrar, or such person’s last known address as furnished by such person to the citing officer or to the court; or

(b) fails to pay within the time allowed the full amount of a fine, penalty, assessment, or other lawful amount required by a justice pursuant to law; or

(c) attempts to pay such fine, penalty, assessment, or other lawful amount with a check that is returned, unpaid, the clerk-magistrate shall notify the registrar. Such notice to the registrar may be given more than once in the same case if necessary.

Upon receipt of such notice, the registrar shall revoke any operators license, learners permit, certificate of registration or title, number plate, sticker, decal or other item issued by the registrar and held by the violator and order the return thereof forthwith. Such violator may not apply for or receive any operators license, learners permit, certificate of registration or title, number plate, sticker, decal or other item issued by the registrar unless and until the violator presents the registrar with a certificate of the clerk-magistrate of the court that the matter has been fully disposed of in accordance with law or, in the case of a matter still pending before the court, that the violator is attending to the matter to the satisfaction of the court. The court shall not unreasonably withhold such certificate. The registrar may cancel such revocation, and so notify the court, if satisfied that it resulted through error of the registrar or the court.

Nothing herein shall limit the availability to the court of other enforcement mechanisms in addition to notice to the registrar, including the issuance of additional written notices, summonses or warrants, including warrants of distress as provided for in section forty-two of chapter two hundred and seventy-nine, or proceedings for civil or criminal contempt. Civil contempt actions shall be prosecuted by the district attorney or police prosecutor and heard by a justice pursuant to rules of court. Any summons or warrant issued pursuant to this subsection may be served by any officer authorized to service criminal process.

(C) If a violator is cited for a civil motor vehicle infraction in conjunction with and arising from the same occurrence as an automobile law violation that constitutes a criminal offense, both shall be recorded on the same citation whenever feasible and all parts of the citation shall be deposited with the clerk-magistrate as provided in section two.

The civil motor vehicle infraction shall retain its character as such and shall be decided and disposed of under the same general procedures and with the same provisions as to disposition and assessments as provided in subsection (A), with the following exceptions:

(1) The violator may not dispose of the civil motor vehicle infraction by paying the scheduled assessment to the registrar until there has been an adjudication of the associated automobile law violation.

(2) The violator may request a noncriminal hearing on such civil motor vehicle infraction by making a written request therefor at any time prior to the commencement of trial on the associated criminal automobile law violation. Such noncriminal hearing shall be conducted by a justice, and either may be conducted simultaneously with the criminal trial, or may be severed from the trial of the associated criminal automobile law violation if justice so requires. If the violator exercises the right to trial by jury in the first instance with respect to the associated criminal automobile law violation, the noncriminal hearing shall be conducted by the justice presiding over such trial.

(3) If the violator has been found guilty of, and is simultaneously being sentenced on, the criminal automobile law violation, the justice may order filed without imposition of an assessment any associated civil motor vehicle infraction as to which the violator admits responsibility or has been found responsible. In all other cases, if the violator admits responsibility or has been found responsible for the civil motor vehicle infraction, the justice shall require the violator to pay a civil assessment in accordance with subsection (A). Such civil assessment shall be paid directly to the registrar, or shall be paid to the clerk-magistrate and then paid over to the registrar, as the registrar and the chief justice of the district court shall jointly determine.

If the violator in such a case defaults solely on the portion of such citation that constitutes one or more civil motor vehicle infractions, such default shall be dealt with as indicated in subsection (A). If the violator in such a case defaults on the portion of such citation that constitutes one or more criminal automobile law violations, such default shall be dealt with as indicated in subsection (B).

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