September 16, 2020

You may not think much of an $85 speeding ticket in New Jersey.  Most people would not want to return to New Jersey to fight such a ticket in Court.  But beware that minor ticket could cause you a major headache should you choose to just pay it.  A client of ours did just that and had their license suspended for 60 days due to the way the different Motor Vehicle Registries communicate with each other.   Read on to learn more.  

Minor Ticket – Why Not Just Just Pay it? 

Our client was coming home from New Jersey a couple of months ago, after visiting family.  On the way home, he got pulled over in New Jersey for going 10 miles over the posted speed limit. The officer gave him an $85 ticket. It wasn’t worth fighting, as he would need to return to New Jersey to do.  He just decided to pay it. A couple of months later, he got a notice in the mail from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, saying that his license in Massachusetts was  being suspended for 60 days because of the $85 ticket from New Jersey. The problem is that the Motor vehicle Registries in most of the country all talk to each other. They have reciprocity and they report violations that happen in other states back to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and vice versa.

They all use this coding system, which has limited descriptors for the offenses. In New Jersey, a very low-level traffic ticket is often referred to on their books, as “careless operation.”  It’s code M-81 in this book, and it was on the notice that my client received. But in Massachusetts There is no such thing as “careless driving.” There are other driving laws, such as operating to endanger and reckless operation, which are both criminal offenses which carry a 60-day loss of license for a conviction.  This is the closest thing Massachusetts has to this M-81 Code description. The Massachusetts Registry, doesn;t get to hear about what actually happened. They don’t get a police report or any description of what happened, except that code, which says “careless and improper driving or operation of a motor vehicle.” They take that and apply  the closest thing Massachusetts has which could be negligent operation or reckless operation of a motor vehicle both of which carry a 60 day loss of license. Because of this coding system between the RMVs our client’s license was suspended for 60 days.  

Getting Your License Back

Now it’s not that easy to get it back, even though it seems like it’d be a pretty simple mistake. What you have to do first  is go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and request a hearing before a Registry of Motor Vehicles hearings officer.  This can be done on a walk-in, first come first served basis as many registry locations.  However, be prepared to wait around for the better part of a day before you get heard.  Even more upsetting will be that this hearings officer will most likely tell you that they can’t do anything to reverse it.  You will next have to appeal to the Insurance Board of Appeals / Registry Board of Appeals.   The problem is, it’s very hard to get in front of the Board of Appeals in Massachusetts in any short period of time, even if you ask for an expedited hearing. Chances are, even if you can get it rushed through, you’ll serve most or a lot of that suspension long before the hearing at  Board of Appeals, to try and get your license reinstated for this minor offense. Keep in mind, if you do drive on a suspended license, even though it seems like a mistake, you can be punished with a further criminal violation of operating a motor vehicle without a license.  

Keep This in Mind

It’s important that if you get pulled over in another state, that you pay careful attention to what you’re getting cited for, and whether or not it could have some ramifications on your Massachusetts license. There are at least 23 states out there that report to Massachusetts convictions for what they call “careless driving”, which is this M-81 code. Of those, the most common that report this  to Massachusetts are New Jersey, Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, and Virginia. If you get pulled over for speeding or some other minor traffic violation in those states, you have to be careful to make sure you’re not just paying a ticket and getting hit with a license suspension 

If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.