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Massachusetts G.L. c. 277, § 70C: Civil Conversion

Massachusetts General Laws chapter 277, section 70C allows, in the court’s discretion, a violation of an ordinance, by-law or misdemeanor offense to be treated as civil infraction. It provides in part as follows:

“Upon oral motion by the commonwealth or the defendant at arraignment or pretrial conference, or upon the court's own motion at any time, the court may, unless the commonwealth objects, in writing, stating the reasons for such objection, treat a violation of a municipal ordinance, or by-law or a misdemeanor offense as a civil infraction.”
Civil Conversion of Massachusetts Misdemeanors

This statute, G.L. c. 277, §70C, makes it possible to convert a misdemeanor crime to a civil infraction. In Massachusetts, a misdemeanor is a crime that is not punishable by imprisonment in the state prison. If the punishment set forth in the statute does not include the possibility of time in the state prison, then the crime is a misdemeanor. Civil infractions involve minor violations and are not punishable by prison time. A common example of a civil infraction is speeding.

Conversion of a misdemeanor offense to a civil infraction can be done upon a motion by the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, or the judge. A criminal conviction on one’s record, even for a misdemeanor, can carry serious and lasting consequences affecting professional and educational opportunities and more. Thus, civil conversion under G.L.c. 277, section 70C can be useful to those hoping to protect their futures. However, the statute lists numerous offenses that are ineligible for civil conversion, including:

  • Habitual traffic offender
  • OUI Liquor
  • OUI Drugs
  • OUI Boat
  • OUI with Serious Injury
  • Leaving the Scene of Personal Injury or Property Damage
  • Racing a Motor Vehicle
  • Negligent or Reckless Operation Use of a Motor Vehicle Without Authority
  • False Statement in Application for License or Registration
  • Motor Vehicle Homicide
  • Negligent/Night Use of Water Skis/Surfboard
  • Leaving the Scene of Motorboat Accident
  • Leaving the Scene of Personal Injury or Property Damage by Boat
  • Unsafe Operation of Boat Use Boat Without Authority
  • OUI Boat with Serious Injury
  • Homicide by Boat
  • Crimes Against the Person
  • Restraining Order Violations
  • Juvenile Delinquency Offenses
  • Perjury Offenses
  • False Statement to Specified State Agencies
  • False Report by Public Employee
  • False Return by Process Server
  • Compelling a Person to Decline Civil Service Appointment
  • Bribing Juror, Master or Arbitrator
  • Picketing Court, Judge or Juror
  • Intimidating or Harassing Witness, Juror, Court Official, Prosecutor or Police
  • Disrupting Court Proceedings
  • Aiding Felon or Convict to Escape
  • Escape from Municipal Lockup
  • Escape from Penal Institution or Court
  • Aiding Escape from Officer
  • Permitting Prisoner to Escape
  • Permitting Escape from Penal Institution
  • Negligently Permitting a Prisoner to Escape
  • Delivering Contraband to Prisoner
  • Compounding or Concealing a Felony
  • State Ethics Act Offenses
  • Firearms and Dangerous Weapons Violations
  • Abducting a Person under 16 for Marriage
  • Abducting a Person for Prostitution Drug for Sexual Intercourse
  • Inducing a Minor to Sexual Intercourse
  • Inducing a Minor to Prostitution
  • Deriving Support from Minor Prostitute
  • Maintaining a House of Prostitution
  • Deriving Support from Prostitute
  • Soliciting for Prostitution
  • Procuring for Prostitution
  • Detaining or Drugging a Person in Brothel
  • Open and Gross Lewdness
  • Obscene Matter to Minor
  • Posing or Exhibiting a Child in a Nude or Sexual Act
  • Distributing Material of a Child in a Nude or Sexual Act

An experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer will advise as to whether civil conversion is an available and viable option in your case.

Civil Conversion Under G.L. c. 277, §70C

If a motion for civil conversion is successful, you will no longer face jail time or the possibility of a criminal conviction on your record. However, if the court finds you responsible for the civil infraction, you will be subject to a fine. The fine will depend upon the relevant bylaw, misdemeanor or ordinance. If the applicable bylaw, misdemeanor or ordinance does not set forth a civil fine as a potential penalty, then the court can impose a fine of up to $5,000. A finding of responsibility will not be used in the calculation of any second or subsequent offenses or as a basis of a probation surrender or revocation of parole. The Appellate Division of the District Court Department, not the Appeals Court, has jurisdiction over appeals of cases after civil conversion. This is because the cases are civil and involve money damages as opposed to equitable relief.

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer 617-263-6800

Attorney Stephen Neyman regularly helps his clients to avoid criminal convictions which could devastate their futures. Attorney Neyman explores all possible options, including civil conversion, to minimize the effects of criminal accusations on his clients’ lives. He understands that his clients have very much at stake, including their jobs, educations, families, reputations, and more. Attorney Neyman regularly succeeds in getting charges dismissed and winning not guilty verdicts. He has been practicing criminal law for multiple decades and is well known in courts throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Attorney Neyman is a fierce advocate who prides himself on excellent client service and exceptional results. If you or someone you know has been charged with any crime in Massachusetts, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C., at 617-263-6800 or send an e-mail today. Attorney Neyman’s office takes calls 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, so do not hesitate to call day or night. The sooner you contact Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer Stephen Neyman, the sooner he can start building your winning case.

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