Monday, March 7, 2011

Fees curb urge to appeal traffic tickets

SJC to hear challenge protesting court costs
 By David Abel
Globe Staff / March 7, 2011
Two years after state lawmakers imposed fees for fighting traffic tickets, the number of appeals has dropped, raising questions about whether the effort to weed out frivolous cases and raise revenue has hindered access to courts.
For the year beginning July 2009, when a $25 fee was added to appeal a moving violation to a clerk magistrate, 217,197 drivers challenged their tickets — almost 10 percent fewer than the previous fiscal year. During the same period, when they had to pay another $50 to contest a clerk’s decision, 15,466 drivers appealed to a district court judge — almost 35 percent fewer than the previous fiscal year.
The fees, which can cost more than the tickets, have riled those who insist they were wrongly cited.
Belmont lawyer Ralph Sullivan will argue before the Supreme Judicial Court that he should not have to pay $75 to contest a $100 traffic ticket he received.
“It’s ridiculous,’’ said Charlene Allen, 27, of Dorchester, who paid $75 to fight a $50 citation for an expired inspection sticker because she worried about an increase in her insurance premiums. “It just doesn’t make sense to me that you should have to pay a fee to go before a judge, especially when it’s the same cost as the ticket.’’ More...

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