Massachusetts Auto Driving Laws
Driving in Massachusetts is a privilege, not a right. You earn driving
privileges by passing written and road tests that prove your ability to operate
a motor vehicle safely and within Massachusetts driving law.
Once you have earned your driver's license, you are responsible for your
actions as a driver.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles
The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) tracks your history as a driver in your
driving record. This record lists three types of events that can cause you to
lose your driving privileges:
- Civil motor vehicle infractions
- Criminal violations
- Motor vehicle accidents where you are found to be more than 50 percent at
Suspension or Revocation of Driver's License
Under Massachusetts driving law, the RMV is required to suspend or revoke
your driver's license in a number of situations described in this chapter. A
suspension or revocation means that your license and driving privileges are
taken away for a specific period or indefinitely.
In addition, you will not be able to renew your expired license if you have
unpaid parking violations, unpaid excise taxes, outstanding court warrants, or
unfulfilled child support obligations.
When you break a Massachusetts driving law, you are subject to a citation. A
citation may require that you pay a fine, lose your driving privileges, appear
in court, or go to jail.
Major violations of Massachusetts traffic laws, such as driving while
intoxicated or leaving the scene of an accident, carry severe penalties and
could cause you to lose your license.
You can also lose your license through a series of Massachusetts driving law
violations, such as driving above the speed limit or failing to obey traffic
Civil Motor Vehicle Infractions
Civil violations of Massachusetts driving law, such as not obeying traffic
signals or speeding, are considered non-criminal and can usually be settled by
Under Massachusetts driving law, if you receive a citation from a law
enforcement officer for a civil motor vehicle infraction (CMVI), you must pay
the required fine or request a hearing to dispute the citation within 20 days.
CMVI fines usually range between $35 and $175.
If you do not respond to a citation within 20 days, you will be found
responsible and charged a substantial late payment fee. Continued failure to pay
the citation and late fee will cause your license to be suspended.
Paying a motor vehicle citation fine means you accept responsibility for that
violation of Massachusetts traffic laws. Your driving record will note that you
have accepted responsibility for a citation whether you paid the citation by
mail, requested a hearing and were ordered by a court to pay the fine, or you
failed to respond to the citation within the 20-day period.
Under Massachusetts driving law, if you are given a citation for driving
above the speed limit, the minimum penalty is a $75 fine. If you are convicted
of driving more than 10 miles per hour (mph) over the speed limit, you will be
fined an additional $10 for each mph you were traveling above the first 10.
By law, all fines for speeding violations include a $50 surcharge (increased
from $25, effective July 1, 2003). This surcharge is applied to the Head Injury
Treatment Services Trust Fund.
Speeding is a common factor in motor vehicle crashes resulting in serious
head injuries. The legislature established this trust fund for rehabilitation
services for those with head injuries.
Criminal Violations of Massachusetts Driving Law
Criminal motor vehicle violations are serious offenses. If you commit a
criminal motor vehicle violation, you may be arrested immediately, your vehicle
will be towed, your license may be taken away, and you may be placed in jail
until a court hearing can be arranged. If you are convicted of a criminal motor
vehicle offense, the court will set any fine or prison term.
Criminal motor vehicle offenses of Massachusetts driving law include driving
with a suspended license, driving under the influence (DUI), and leaving the
scene of an accident. The License Suspension or Revocation section of this
chapter includes tables that outline the penalties of many criminal motor
In addition, under Massachusetts driving law you may be arrested and
criminally charged for not responding truthfully and fully to a police officer
who has asked you to...
- Provide your name and address
- Provide the vehicle owner's name and address
- Produce your driver's license on demand
- Show a valid registration certificate for the vehicle
- Sign your name in the officer's presence
In addition to civil and criminal motor vehicle violations, the third type of
event that negatively affects your driving record is a motor vehicle accident
for which you are considered to be at fault. You are considered to be more than
50 percent at fault for an accident if your insurance company...
1. Finds you at fault according to one of the 19 Standards of Fault listed at
the end of Chapter 6. An example is causing an accident while driving on the
wrong side of the road or crashing into another vehicle from behind, and...
2. Has paid a claim of more than $500 for collision, limited collision claim,
or damage to someone else's property.
Any at-fault accidents charged to you will be listed on your driving record
with any motor vehicle violations you committed and will count toward possible
The motor vehicle violations or accidents described previously that are
listed on your driving record are called surchargeable events. Each
surchargeable event counts toward possible license suspension.
Remember, the RMV treats most out-of-state traffic convictions as if they
occurred in Massachusetts.
Under Massachusetts driving law, if you receive three speeding violations
within a 12-month period, your driver's license will be suspended automatically
for 30 days. The 12-month period begins when you either pay or are found
responsible for the first of the 3 citations.
Junior operators (under age 18) face a tougher license suspension of 180 days
for any combination of 2 speeding or drag racing citations and a 1 year
suspension for a third violation.
If you collect five surchargeable events on your driving record within a
3-year period, you are in danger of having your license suspended. You will
receive a letter from the RMV instructing you to complete a driver retraining
You must complete the retraining course within 90 days or your license will
be suspended indefinitely until you complete the program. If you have taken the
driver retraining program in the past 3 years, you are exempt from this
Under Massachusetts driving law, if you collect seven surchargeable events
within a 3-year period, your license will will be suspended automatically for 60
For More Information
Massachusetts Department of Transportation