Beating a ticket

By | September 12, 2006

Approaching a red light on Washington St. at the intersection with Waverly Ave. near Newton Corner.  Thought the two cars riding the yellow line at the red light were turning left (cars often don’t signal turns at that intersection, or for that matter anywhere else in the Boston area).  Started to pass them on the right as the light turned green, then realized that the one in front was going straight.  Slowed down to let him proceed and merge in behind him, but that apparently wasn’t good enough for him.  He was a state trooper driving an unmarked, and I ended up with a citation for improper passing on the right.

He claimed before issuing me the citation that passing on the right at that intersection was illegal because there was a double yellow line down the middle of the road (false), that I only slowed down after he turned on his lights (false), and that the bus lane extended all the way to the intersection and hence cars were not allowed to drive on the portion of the road (false — as the paint on the road clearly shows, the bus lane ends something like 50 feet before the intersection).

He also said that the guy in front of me who passed him while making a right turn at the intersection was also in violation of the same law, but oddly enough he didn’t give that guy a ticket — he only gave one to me, of course because he thought I was trying to pass him and it ticket him off (can you say “arbitrary and capricious”?).

On the citation, he wrote “improper passing (yellow line)”.  Since the yellow line has nothing to do with a passing on the right violation, I believe the “(yellow line)” notation renders the citation defective and hence potentially invalid.

Of course, I asked for a hearing on the citation.  The morning before the hearing, I visited the intersection during rush hour with my digital camera and videotaped people driving through the intersection for 15 minutes.  I counted 43 different cars passing left-turning vehicles on the right, and two cars passing vehicles that were actually going straight.

The trooper was correct that the latter is illegal, and if I had been intending to do that or had actually done it, I would have gritted my teeth and paid the citation rather than contesting it.  But that was not my intent, and I had already started to slow down when he stopped me, and I didn’t actually pass him before he stopped me, which means that he never actually observed me committing the offense for which he gave me a citation.

For my hearing, I printed out references from MGL and the driver’s manual, 45 pictures of cars passing in the intersection, and a few pictures of the intersection itself from various angles.  I also wrote an outline presenting the facts described above to assist me in making my case at the hearing.

At the initial hearing before a clerk magistrate, the trooper who issued the citation doesn’t have to show up and usually doesn’t.  Instead, one trooper shows up representing the Commonwealth for all citations, and that trooper is legally required to have a copy of each citation in lieu of the trooper who issued it.

The punchline: The trooper didn’t have a copy of my citation, so I was found “not responsible” without having to make any case at all.  I joked with the clerk as he was handing me my paperwork that I was disappointed that all the work I’d done was for naught, and he said with a twinkle in his eye, “Well, if you’d like, you can appeal your `not responsible’ verdict.”  I declined his kind offer.

It is worth noting that the three people whose hearings were heard before mine were all found “not responsible.”

Moral of the story: Always contest a moving violation, at least if you think it was undeserved.  A more unscrupulous person might leave off the last part of the moral, but personally, if I think I deserved the ticket, I’ll grit my teeth, pay the ticket, and live with the surcharge.


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2 thoughts on “Beating a ticket

  1. jik Post author

    Dang, I didn’t even catch that! Of course you’re right that it was Tremont Street, not Washington Street. Can’t believe I missed that obvious error on the ticket. By itself, it might not have been enough to get the ticket thrown out, but certainly it would have added fuel to the fire.

  2. Chris

    I think that you ticket was actually given on Tremont Street, not Washington Street. There’s no light at the intersection of Washington and Waverly. From Oak Square, Washington is the one that goes up and over the hill, and Tremont is the one that goes around it to the left. If the ticket said Washington Street, that would be yet another reason for it not to stand up in court.


    P.S. I just moved to West Newton, and really enjoy your blog. I found it when searching online for info on Echo Bridge.


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