A Brief Synopsis of Provisions of Mass. OHV Law
The new OHV Law, Chapter 202 of the Acts of 2010 (its legislative title), primarily affects M.G. L. Chapter 90B and related laws, governing off-road recreational and utility vehicles. The law also strengthens M.G.L. Chapter 266, Section 121A, which prohibits the unauthorized use of anything with an internal combustion engine on public or private property. There are other laws which may affect the use of OHV’s, summarized in Off-Highway Vehicle Regulations Enforcement and Management Plan Recommendations, prepared for the Massachusetts Forest and Park Friends Network in 2011.
The Law: Chapter 90B; Regulations: 323 CMR 3:00
The new OHV law makes the following changes to Chapter 90B:
- Section 25. 323 CMR 3:03 2(b). It is illegal to operate an OHV on a public way (weather it is maintained or unmaintained), except on a marked OHV crossing as part of a marked and designated trail system. (Only a snowmobile may cross on an unmarked crossing.) To cross a public way, the operator must be age 16.5 and licensed or supervised by a person age 18 or older.
- 2. Section 26 (e). 323 CMR 3:03 2(b). It is illegal to operate an OHV on any public property (federal, state, municipal; park, trail, water supply land, etc.), if it is not on a marked and authorized trail.
- Section 26 (e). 323 CMR 3:03 (2)(a). It is illegal to operate an OHV on private property except if: A) the property is owned by the operator or a member of his family; B) The operator is part of a club or group that has permission to use trails on the property, or; C) The operator has the owner’s written permission to ride on the property and this writing is in his possession when riding.
- Section 22. 323 CMR 3:03 (12). All OHV’s must be registered (except those used strictly on a farm or business while on private property), and the registration must be displayed on the vehicle.
- 5. Section 26(a)(1)&(2). 323 CMR 3:03 (1)(b)(c)(d). No person under the age of 14 may ride an OHV, except as a participant in a municipally “sanctioned event” and under the supervision of a person age 18 or older. Minors under age 16 must use a properly sized and/or powered OHV. Minors age 10 – 14 participating in or training for a “sanctioned event” may operate under adult supervision. (Exceptions for youngest age of operation: Age 12 for Dirt Bikes; Age 10 for Snowmobiles.)
- Section 21. 323 CMR 3:03 (1)(a). Operators under the age of 18 must complete a vehicle safety and responsibility course.
- Section 26(f). 323 CMR 3:03 (7)(8). There are specific penalties for illegal operation of an OHV on certain sensitive lands, both public and private. Such sensitive areas include reforested and planted areas, DCR and DFG land, wetlands and other waters, priority habitats, public water supply land, and historic or archeological sites. Harassing wildlife and operating within 300 feet of a deer yard are also prohibited. In addition to monetary penalties, damages may be requested and awarded, as part of the criminal proceeding. (Treble damages can be awarded for damage to agricultural land, per M.G.L. Ch. 242, s. 7B.)
- 323 CMR 3:03 (3). It is illegal to operate within 150 feet of an occupied residence, without the owner’s permission.
- 9. Section 26(b). Section 26E. 303 CMR (1)(e)(f). In the case of illegal use of an OHV by a minor, the adult who provides the OHV to the minor is liable for criminal penalties and damages. A person who provides an OHV to an adult shall be liable with the operator for all fines, penalties and damages as a result of the operation of the vehicle.
- Section 26C. An OHV may be confiscated/forfeited, in the case of certain very serious offenses, such as vehicular homicide, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident causing bodily injury and driving under the influence. An OHV may also be confiscated if the operator has been convicted of multiple lessor offenses.
Chapter 90B: Enforcement.
- Who can Enforce?
Chapter 90B may be enforced by any law enforcement officer. This includes municipal and state police officers, Environmental Police Officers and certain State Park Rangers if they have appropriate law enforcement training. Presumably, the state OHV law could be enforced on federal land by federal enforcement officers.
State Environmental Police have authority to enforce environmental laws (including Chapter 90B) on state, municipal and private property. Local law enforcement officers can enforce within the municipality.
- Local Law Enforcement
On private land, including land owned by NGO conservation organizations, most enforcement will be by the local police.
- Simplify Explanation of Law’s Provisions in Training and Publications
Local police are familiar with Chapter 90A, governing the use of motor vehicles on public ways. Certain sections of Chapter 90B track similar provisions of Chapter 90A (governing operating under the influence, without registration, leaving the scene of an accident, vehicular homicide).
M.G.L. Chapter 266, Section 121A
Motor Vehicle Trespass
This law prohibits the unauthorized use of an internal combustion engine (including a motor vehicle) on public or private land without the owner’s written permission in the operator’s possession. This is a criminal trespass law. It covers any situation where an OHV is being operated without permission. Chapter 202 increased the maximum fine for violation to $500.
M.G.L. Ch.131 S. 40
Wetlands Protection Act; Rivers Protection Act
It is illegal to ride an OHV in wetland resource areas or through rivers and streams. Damage to these resources can result in a $25,000 fine and imprisonment.