Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

When Does Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle Lead to Criminal Charges in Massachusetts?

It is often very difficult to discern between genuine car accidents and collisions caused by negligent drivers. However, according to Massachusetts law, there is a clear line between accidents and negligence. For those who are accused of causing vehicle collisions, the difference between these two concepts could be significant. It makes sense to work with a qualified defense attorney in Boston and show that the accident was just that – an accident.  

What is “Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle” in Massachusetts?

Negligent operation of a motor vehicle is a criminal offense in Massachusetts. This is somewhat confusing, as “negligence” is a concept more closely aligned with civil lawsuits than criminal charges. When a defendant is successfully sued in a civil case, they are found to be “negligent,” while a defendant in a criminal case is found to be “guilty.” Perhaps a more clear word would be “reckless,” and indeed this offense is often called “reckless operation of a motor vehicle” instead. 

Negligent operation of a motor vehicle is defined according to Section 24(2)(a) of chapter 90 of Massachusetts’ General Laws:

Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right to access, or [in] any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered, shall be punished.”

Penalties for this offense can vary dramatically depending on factors such as speed, intoxication, and whether the defendant caused injuries or death. That being said, most courts impose a mandatory minimum sentence of two weeks in jail, with the maximum sentence being two years. There is also the possibility of fines and license suspension. 

What is the Line Between an “Accident” and Negligent Operation?

The line between an accident and criminal negligent operation is very thin in Massachusetts. This makes it exceedingly important to avoid speaking to police after the crash and while you are being investigated for this alleged offense. Even a single sentence may incriminate you under the wrong circumstances. A recent case shows that when a defendant admitted he was not familiar with a particular neighborhood, the court interpreted this as an admission of guilt and convicted him of negligent operation of a motor vehicle. It takes very little for the Commonwealth to prove that you crossed the thin line between a genuine accident and negligent operation. 

Where Can I Find an Experienced Defense Attorney in Boston?

If you have been searching for an experienced defense attorney in Boston, look no further than Edward R. Molari. We know that mistakes happen when you get behind the wheel, and it does not make sense to accept needlessly excessive criminal consequences for an accident that you never intended to cause. Book a consultation today to determine the most appropriate defense strategy based on your unique circumstances.