Massachusetts Supreme Court upholds policy of charging $70 fee to innocent motorists

Getting a ticket can ruin even the best of days, but at least American motorists have the ability to fight moving violations in court. Challenging a ticket at least gives drivers a shot at avoiding or reducing fines and/or points charged to their records.

In Massachusetts, however, a new state Supreme Court ruling means drivers have to pay, win or lose. The Newspaper details the case of Ralph Sullivan, who was charged $70 in non-refundable fees even after he successfully fought a lane violation ticket ($20 for appealing the summons to a clerk, then another $50 to get the case in front of a district court judge). Sullivan argued to the Massachusetts Supreme Court that the policy violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, as motorists are saddled with fees that offenders in more serious cases are not required to pay. The court disagreed and ruled against Sullivan.

In the ruling, Justice Ralph D. Gants writes, "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."

Yeah, we get it. The courts are busy and they're expensive to run, so the $3,678,620 Massachusetts courts received as a result of fines in 2010 is needed to keep the doors open. We're of the opinion that anyone found not guilty should never have been pulled over in the first place, so the fine is levied as punishment for no crime committed. Isn't wasting half a day in court punishment enough?

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