The purpose of this page is to clear up some of the confusing terminology and misconceptions about traffic tickets. There are also some helpful guidelines about what to do if you are pulled over by a police officer. Please let us know if you have any additional suggestions for this subject.
There are 3 types of tickets issued by the Princeton Police Department:
A written traffic ticket, with "Massachusetts Uniform Citation" at the top. Charges can be civil or criminal. If fines apply, you can pay online. A citation may affect your insurance, as determined by the Merit Rating Board. Contact your insurance agent for more information about the effect of a ticket on your insurance.
Like a citation, a warning is written on the “Massachusetts Uniform Citation”. If the box marked "WARNING" above the officer's signature is checked, then no action is required by the violator. Warnings do not affect your insurance or merit rating, but if you accumulate three within one year, the Registry has the option of suspending your license. There is no appeal procedure for warnings. Unlike written warnings, the Registry does not track verbal warnings, and no fine or other consequence is levied.
If you violate a Town of Princeton parking bylaw, you may receive a parking ticket issued by the Princeton Police Department. The fine(s) listed on the ticket is payable at the Town Clerk's office in the Town Hall at 6 Town Hall Drive.
There are 2 types of charges associated with Citations:
Civil traffic charges include speeding, stop sign violation, crossing marked lanes, and most other moving violations. Civil charges result in a fine being levied on the citation, which is payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Click here to pay online. Speeding fines are calculated based upon how far over the limit you were going. Civil traffic charges do not result in arrest. All citizens have the right to appeal civil citation charges before a Clerk Magistrate by following the procedures listed on the back of your citation. All Princeton civil traffic appeals are heard at the Leominster District Court. Click red button below for map, directions, and contact information; use the blue button for the official Mass.gov Leominster District Court webpage.
In some cases, a criminal complaint may be issued as a result of a motor vehicle stop. Some examples of criminal charges include OUI, driving to endanger, failure to stop for a police officer, driving without a license, etc. Criminal charges may or may not result in you being arrested. If you are cited for criminal charges on your ticket, you will notice that there is no fine levied on the citation. Instead, you must appear in Court to answer the charges. The Judge will determine fines or other consequences. Criminal charges are not appealed like civil charges are. Instead, your attorney may file appeals after your initial Court appearance. Adult criminal cases are heard at Leominster District Court or Fitchburg District Court (jury trials). Juvenile (under 17 years of age) criminal hearings are heard at Juvenile Court in Fitchburg. Some criminal cases, including Grand Jury indictments, are heard at Worcester Superior Court. Criminal charges when summoned may be appealed to Leominster District Court by following the procedures on the back of your citation.
Speeding fines are set by the State. The minimum fine is $100, which is levied for the first 1-10 miles per hour over the speed limit and includes a surcharge for the head injury fund. If the vehicle speed exceeds 10 MPH over the limit, an additional $10 fine is levied for each mile over.
Nearly everyone is stopped by a police officer during their driving years. Since most of us are not pulled over very often, it can be upsetting or confusing. Listed below are some commonly asked questions and their answers, as well as an explanation of some of the procedures followed by officers while on traffic duty.
Why did the officer stop me?
A moving violation (such as speeding, failure to stop at a red light or stop sign, failure to signal, crossing marked lanes) is the most common reason for stopping a vehicle.
License, registration, or equipment violations are other reasons an officer may stop a vehicle. Massachusetts motor vehicle laws are long and complex, so it is not uncommon for a driver to be in violation of the law without knowing it.
Courtesy or safety concerns are other reasons an officer might stop your car.
Depending on the circumstances and violation(s), the driver may be arrested, issued a citation (criminal or civil - see Types of Charges), or given a verbal or written warning. (See Types of Tickets).
My car was searched. I didn't think you could do that!
Usually, your vehicle will not be searched during a routine traffic stop for minor violations. There are, however, certain circumstances under which an officer may search your vehicle, with or without your permission. There are 2 types of searches, as well as a vehicle inventory:
- Consent Searches require that the officer ask your permission to search your vehicle. You have the right to refuse a consent search.
- Probable Cause Searches are conducted when a police officer is aware of certain information, which legally allows a search of your vehicle without your permission. For example, if the officer observes drugs or weapons in your car, he has probable cause to believe there may be more contraband in the vehicle and has the right to search without your consent. In addition, criminals often use cars to facilitate crimes. You vehicle may match the description of a suspect's vehicle, in which case you may be stopped as part of the investigation. Investigations often involve searching a car in association with the crime.
- Vehicle Inventories are routinely conducted when your car is going to be towed by order of the Princeton Police Department. This policy is a standard procedure of most police departments in the area, for the simple reason that it protects you, the officer, and the towing company from any misunderstandings regarding missing or damaged property. Vehicle inventory does not require your permission.
What should I do if I am stopped?
- Stop your vehicle as far out of the lane of traffic as possible.
- Stay in your vehicle. If you get out of your car you subject yourself and the officer to danger.
- Turn on your interior light if it is dark out. Good lighting assists good communication.
- Keep your hands in view at all times, preferably on the steering wheel.
- Be patient. When the officer requests your license and registration, provide it promptly. Understand that for their safety, police officers are trained to ask for identification first, and provide an explanation second.
- Respect the officer's right to ensure his or her own safety. The officer is in uniform, displaying a badge and nametag. You have the advantage of knowing whom you are dealing with. Extend the courtesy by presenting your identification without an argument. It makes sense and it's the law.
- Stay calm. Do not argue the stop or citation with the officer. Citation appeal procedures are written on the back of the ticket.
....did the officer sneak up along the side of my car? Police officers are trained to minimize their exposure to traffic to reduce the likelihood that they will be injured. The second reason is that they are trained to protect themselves tactically. Many police officers have been killed by drivers wanted for various crimes, or have reason to believe they may be suspected of a crime.
....did 2 or 3 officers show up for a minor traffic offense? Officers frequently back each other up without being summoned. This protocol maximizes safety for officers.
....did the officer sit in the police car for so long? What are they doing? Princeton Police Department cruisers are equipped with mobile data terminals that allow the officers to verify that your driver's license and registration status are valid. This process, though comparatively fast, could take a few minutes.
Did you know...?
When driving a motor vehicle, you must have a valid driver's license and registration in your possession. Without these, you could be issued a citation.
It is the driver's (not the owner's) responsibility to make sure all of the lights and safety equipment are functioning properly.
As the driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that children are wearing their seatbelts or are in their child safety seats. Click here for: Massachusetts seatbelt law, Massachusetts child safety seat law
Also, the mass.gov Child Passenger Safety page has a lot of useful information.
You must signal your intent to pass, turn, or change lanes before performing the action.
Following too closely to the vehicle in front of your vehicle is a moving violation. You should be at least three car lengths away.
Children under age 12 and pets are prohibited from riding in the backs of open pick-up trucks.
Thickly settled zones have a 30 MPH speed limit; rural zones have a 40 MPH speed limit.
Note: Forms and some pages on the mass.gov websites are in PDF format, so they require Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click below get this free, safe download.
- Massachusetts seatbelt law
- Massachusetts child safety seat law
- Child Passenger Safety information
- Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) home page
- Massachusetts motor vehicle laws (Chapter 90)
- Leominster District Court (civil traffic hearings; adult criminal bench trials)
- Fitchburg District Court (adult jury trials Juvenile cases)
- Worcester Juvenile Court (juvenile criminal)
- Worcester Superior Court (some adult criminal and Grand Jury)