Generally, tickets for traffic violations must be issued at the time and place of the violation. Can a police officer send you a traffic citation in the mail, even if you do not remember the day or circumstances of the alleged violation?
Massachusetts has a “No Fix” statute that governs this situation: G.L. c. 90C, § 2. The statute allows police to issue a citation later under certain circumstances: if the violator could not be stopped, if additional time was reasonably necessary to determine the nature of the violation or the identity of the violator, or if the court finds that circumstances justify the failure.
If you receive a citation after the time and place of the alleged violation, this statute allows you to raise a defense at a clerk’s hearing. The police department then has the burden of establishing why the citation was not given to the driver at the time and place of the violation. This defense may also be appealed to a judge and to the Appeals Court.
In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Correia, a driver challenged a speeding ticket that was delivered to him three days after the violation occurred. Mass. App. Ct., No. 12-P-962 (June 21, 2013). An off-duty police officer observed the driver speeding, but did not have his citation book. . The officer followed the driver to the driver’s workplace and explained that he would issue a citation to the driver later. The officer was not scheduled to resume duty for two days. The officer delivered the citation by hand to the driver at the end of the officer’s next shift, three days later.
The Appeals Court held that in these circumstance, the citation’s late delivery was justified by the officer’s being off-duty at the time of the violation:
When, due to the circumstance of being off duty, the officer is unable to deliver a copy of the citation to the defendant at the time and place of the violation, a delay in delivery of the citation is not fatal so long as the officer acts with reasonable promptness, and the purposes of the statute are not compromised. There is no fixed number of hours within which delivery must occur, and no requirement that delivery must occur on the very day of the violation.
If you hope to beat a traffic citation, your best bet is to consult an attorney who understands the citation laws and has experience in local courts. Contact the attorneys at Hutchins Law, P.C. to discuss your situation.