Defending a Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle Case
If you’ve been charged with the negligent operation of a motor vehicle, it is important to speak with an attorney and start strategizing how to best defend yourself. Operating a Motor Vehicle so as to Endanger carries strict penalties, including a mandatory minimum imprisonment for two weeks.
To be convicted of Negligent Operation, M.G.L. c. 90, s. 24(2)(a), the Commonwealth must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant operated a motor vehicle;
- He or she did so on a way, or in a place where the public has a right of access, or in a place where members of the public have access as invitees or licensees; and
- He or she did so in a negligent manner so that the lives or safety of the public might have been endangered.
In most cases, the third element—negligence—will be the most difficult element for the Commonwealth to prove. Whenever you get behind the wheel, you owe a legal duty of care to all other users of the road. If you fall below that standard level of care and do something a reasonable person would not, you are negligent. This does not mean, however, that you are expected to behave perfectly in every situation. Just because you were pulled over, in an accident, or even driving after consuming alcohol does not necessarily mean you can be convicted of operating a motor vehicle negligently so as to endanger.
Just last week in Commonwealth v. Zagwyn, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts reversed a conviction for negligent operation. In that case, a police officer observed the defendant driving a vehicle that’s license plate lights and one headlight were not working. After stopping the vehicle, there was evidence that the driver was operating under the influence of alcohol. A jury convicted the defendant of both Operating Under the Influence and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and the SJC reversed the later conviction. The police officer did not see the defendant swerve or speed. While evidence of intoxication may be a relevant factor to consider in a negligent operation case, proof of intoxication alone is insufficient to warrant a finding of guilty.Other Relevant Factors May Include:
- Manner of Operation: speeding, swerving, sudden stopping, etc.
- Other Vehicles: was another driver solely responsible?
- Conditions at time of incident: was there an emergency situation that required you to make a rapid decision?
- Condition of road
- Condition of the Operator
- If an accident occurred
Even if there was no accident, you can still be convicted of negligent operation. It is the operation itself that is the crime, not the harms caused by the operation. However, that’s not to say any consequences of your allegedly bad driving are irrelevant – an alleged victim may be permitted to testify against you.Experienced and Successful Negligent Driving Lawyer
If you have been accused of Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has twenty-five years of experience defending people accused motor vehicle offenses, including negligent and reckless operation. Attorney Murphy can help you keep your license and your freedom.
Our office is conveniently located at One South Market Street, Fourth Floor in downtown Boston. If you’d like advice regarding a motor vehicle offense, Attorney Murphy provides a free and confidential consultation. You can reach the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy at (617) 367-0450 any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or you can use our online form to set up an appointment.