Negligent or Reckless Operation of a Motor Vehicle
Any person operating a motor vehicle including a car, motorcycle, truck, or other vehicle must operate the vehicle with a duty of care that the person owes the public at large. There are two motor vehicle crimes related to a breach of this duty. One Is the misdemeanor crime of negligent operation of a motor vehicle and the other is reckless operation of a motor vehicle.
Negligence. Negligence is a breach of a duty of care that is owed to others. In this situation, the negligence must also cause the lives and safety of the public to be endangered. The public need not actually have be endangered, but there must have been a situation in existence that caused this risk to exist.
Evidence of negligence. There are an unlimited number of possibilities of negligent situations. The most basic would be when someone speeds. Speeding in itself would be what is referred to as some evidence of negligence. There is of course a difference between going 10 miles over the speed limit in the daytime on an empty interstate and going 10 miles over the speed limit in bad weather without stopping past people in a crosswalk. In the first situation although the speed is some evidence of negligence it is likely not enough to prove negligent operation. In the second situation the speed is some evidence of negligence and combined with the other factors arguably is enough to prove negligence and have endangered the lives and safety of the public.
Recklessness. Recklessness is the lowest level of international actions. Recklessness arises where an individual recognized a risk and in spite of that recognition disregards the risk and goes ahead anyway. Returning to the speed limit example if we were to increase the speed to 50 miles an hour in a school zone past elementary school children the act might go from negligent to reckless.
Loss of license on a guilty finding. In addition to the possibility of a jail sentence the imposition of a loss of license by the Registry of Motor Vehicles is a penalty that must be considered in reviewing the case to determine if a trial is in the client's best interests. In Massachusetts a continuance without a finding or pretrial probation are pretrial divergent mechanisms that may avoid a license loss. These findings allow the disposition of the case without the need for a trial and also do not result in a conviction.
A continuance without a finding means the person admits the Commonwealth could prove that the person is guilty but the case is continued without the person being found guilty. Pretrial probation is pretrial divergent mechanism and means that the person will be on probation but is is not required to plead guilty or otherwise admit that they violated the law. The Commonwealth must agree to pretrial probation.
Public way or a way open to the public. Another element of these crimes is that they have occurred on a public way that is a road which the government maintains or a private way open to the public like a parking lot.