I think I have some useful information about speed enforcement in Massachusetts.
Since I've been living here in MA, I've got 2 citations:
- 40m/h on 30m/h road in Acton back in 2005: not responsible by clerk in Concord Court House
- 69m/h on 45m/h state road (route 2) back in October 2008: not responsible by a judge in Concord Court House (no officer present)
Regarding the hearing with the clerk:
- If you are dealing with your first ticket ever, this is what you need to do:
- show up well dressed to the hearing with the clerk (wearing a suit helps)
- show remorse
- don't try to step into technicalities (clerks hate that); this means don't show up with a bunch of pictures of the road (trying to prove that you were speeding only for 2 feet or that there's no way the officer had enough time to catch you because of a hill, curve, etc), etc.
- in MA it is almost a secret rule that if it is your first ticket ever, the clerk will easily give you a break and declare you not responsible. This I got from a prosecutor.
- If you got a second ticket, then the hearing with the clerk is pretty much a waste of time; but.... they will likely offer you a discount so everybody saves time; up to you if you accept it. I think it is worth to ask for an appeal in front of a judge; you'll have to pay 20 dollars to have the chance.
- Officer will never be present; only one representative from the police station or a prosecutor. You cannot ask to be declared not responsible just because the officer is not present.
Regarding the novo appeal in front of a judge (my second ticket):
- Officer must be present or you will automatically be declared not responsible by the judge; this is what actually happened to me.
- you'll win if there are ugly errors in the ticket like: wrong license number written by the officer; completely different car description written on the ticket (let's say the officer wrote you were on a black toyota camry and your car is actually a yellow corvette); wrong law number circled on the ticket (I think 90-18 only applies to I90 and a section of route 1; most MA roads are under 90-17).
- Besides the last 2 cases, the only "trick" that works is if you go to the judge with another police officer as a witness to testify that you actually were not speeding.
I'm not joking. I wanted to be prepared for my hearing with the judge, so I went for 3 weeks every Friday to court to be more familiarized with the process. So I've heard dozens of cases, every single one with a different strategy used. Nothing works.
A few examples of things that do not work:
- "Sorry your honor; I was speeding. But if I'm declared responsible my insurance will go up which is unfair"
- "If I'm declared responsible I'll lose my job and I'll become a burden to the state and city"
- "Lidar is not an approved device to measure speed in MA" The guy even mentioned that the Ohio Supreme Court declared speed enforcement illegal if a lidar is used. I have no idea if this is true. The judge dismissed it and invited the guy to appeal in front of the MASS Supreme Court. I personally think the judge was "playing" with the guy; MA supreme Court already declared it is ok to use lidar for speed enforcement.
- "Nobody was going slower than me on the same route at the same time"
- "The officer didn't answer my request for discovery"
- One guy was asking questions to the officer about the lidar calibration. In just a few words: in MA officers calibrate their devices once or twice a year and that is good enough for judges.
- Another guy asked lots of questions about the circunstances surrounding the incident; the officer smartly answered all the questions with "I don't remember". The guy was declared responsible of course.
- "The distance between my car and the officer was over 1000 feet" The distance on the ticket was actually a little bit more than 1500 feet. I thought the officer was losing the case; but that didn't happen. The judge still declared the guy responsible.
It is also true that on 90% of the cases I saw judges offering a discount as good as the one offered by the clerk; this is why I think it is worth to appeal to the judge. At least that way you try the chance of the officer not showing up which happens pretty often.
A few other things I noticed:
- if you were ticketed by a state police officer, your chance of the officer not showing up is almost zero. On all the cases I saw, they were always present. Interesting to see every time there were around 5 state police officers present for different traffic court cases and every single one would go driving their own patrol. Haven't they heard about car pooling?
- In the case of city police officers, 50% of the times the officer wouldn't show up.
- Technicalities don't work with the clerk,...don't work with the judge. Internet is full of recommendations and there are a few books you can buy about "how to beat your ticket". Besides what I mentioned before....nothing works in MA. If the officer is present your chance to be declared responsible is pretty much 100%; no matter what you have to say to the judge.
Finally my personal opinion about speed enforcement in MA:
- Most roads in MA have ridiculous speed limits that nobody obeys. Two clear examples are: I95 (only 55m/h) and route 2 (only 25 m/h in some sections)
- Most roads in MA are not in compliance with regulations about enginering studies and 85% percentile; the last time an enginering study was done for many cities in MA was in the 60s. All this doesn't matter to the judge.
- It is not about safety; most police officers go way over the posted speed limit when they drive their police cars (not answering any emergency call).
- Lidar fails. In my second case I know for a fact I was driving at 58m/h on a 45 m/h route; the officer got on the lidar that I was at 69m/h. I have no reason to lie on this forum since I'm already declared not responsible. I explained the officer at the scene that I wasn't going that fast; maybe that's why he didn't show up in court. He got me with the lidar when I quickly changed from the right to the left lane; maybe the sudden move caused the lidar to impact different parts of my suv causing the wrong reading. I'm not sure. All I know is that I was going at 50 m/h and then went up to 58 the moment I switched lanes and then I slowed down.