Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle is also Driving to Endanger under M.G.L. c.90 § 24. If you are charged with negligent operation of a vehicle, you are facing a misdemeanor offense meaning the state is charging you with criminal negligence in Massachusetts.
What is Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle?
Massachusetts criminal law defines Negligent Operation as driving a motor vehicle such that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered. Some jurisdictions charge this as Driving to Endanger.
Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle is a catchall charge that police frequently use in one of two ways: 1) As a companion charge in an OUI arrest, or 2) If police believe you drove anything less than safely on a public way.
Negligent Operation and OUI
Massachusetts police often add a Negligent Operation charge onto a DUI / OUI charge. When this happens, the main offense is Operating Under the Influence and the companion charge is Negligent Operation.
Companion charges have less severe consequences at sentencing than the main offense and are often called lesser charges in DUI cases. For this reason, if you decide to take your case to trial by jury, having lesser charges can be somewhat beneficial as the jury can split their decision between Not Guilty on the DUI, but guilty on the lesser charge of Negligent Operation.
If convicted of operating a motor vehicle negligently, you face a possible sentence of:
- Up to 2 Years in jail
- $20 – $200 fine
- Driver’s License suspension of 60 days, minimum, to
- Up to a 1 year loss of driving privileges.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Driving to Endanger / Negligent Driving is a serious offense with potential jail time if convicted. A skilled defense lawyer in Massachusetts can
- Negotiate your sentence down to a fine,
- Defer adjudication in exchange for probation or a continuance,
- Or have all criminal charges against you dismissed.
Related Case: OUI, Negligent Driving, Leaving Scene charges DISMISSED at motion hearing after Atty Oberhauser won on lack of probable cause to arrest.
-> Read more here
But I Wasn’t Arrested …
If you received a citation (ticket) by police but were not arrested, you can request a Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing to contest the negligent operation complaint listed on the ticket.
Requesting this hearing is always beneficial because a Clerk’s Hearing gives you the opportunity to resolve the complaint before it becomes a formal charge by the District Attorney.
If you and your defense lawyer are successful, the clerk will typically agree to resolve the issue by assessing a fine and/or a driver education course, such that if timely completed, the matter will be closed out and no formal complaint will be filed with the DA.
Clerk magistrates may be more willing to negotiate when you have little or no criminal history. Other times, your defense lawyer may prevail on the merits of the law.
Related Resource: What Happens at a Clerk Magistrate Hearing in MA?
If the complaint is resolved at this hearing, no formal charges will be brought and it will be as if no crime was ever committed. You will have no record of anything on your CORI (i.e. no arrest, no charge, no complaint).
What will happen to my driver’s license?
As noted, if you are convicted of negligent driving, your MA driver’s license and your driving privileges will be suspended for a minimum of 60 days. If you are a minor that was operating with a Junior Operator’s License, a conviction will result in loss of license for 180 days.
Your defense attorney can help you file for a hearing to reinstate your MA driver’s license and right to operate. Typically, you will need to pay a reinstatement fee and go through a formal hearing process at the RMV to get your license back.
If your DUI lawyer wins at trial and has all charges dismissed, the RMV may automatically reinstate your license, however this is not always the case. Talk with your criminal defense attorney about the quickest path to restoring your driving privileges after a negligent driving charge.
Contact my Chelmsford, MA law office as soon as possible if you are facing negligent operation, reckless operation and/or OUI charges.