What Is Negligent Or Reckless Operation Of A Motor Vehicle?

Negligent Operation also known as Driving to Endanger is governed under M.G.L. c. 90 § 24.

Driving to Endanger is simply defined as driving a motor vehicle such that the lives or safety of the public may be endangered.

Negligent Operation charges are often additional charges following an OUI arrest. However, the charge can also be a stand alone charge if the police believe you operated a motor vehicle in a manner they believe to be un-safe on a public way in Massachusetts.

How is reckless driving defined in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, reckless driving is defined as the act of operating a vehicle in a manner that knowingly disregards the high probability of causing death or serious injury to someone else. It includes exhibiting indifference towards the potential harm that could be inflicted on others. It is important to note that recklessness can be proven even if no accident occurs or if there are no other vehicles or pedestrians present on the road nearby. 

To determine whether driving was indeed reckless, the jury will consider various factors. These factors include the defendant's rate of speed and manner of operation, their physical condition and ability to see and control the vehicle, the condition of the defendant's vehicle, the type of road on which the driving took place, the presence of other vehicles or pedestrians, as well as the time of day, weather conditions, and road conditions. Additionally, any other relevant factors will also be taken into account during the assessment of reckless driving. It is essential to consider all these elements and circumstances collectively to determine if the defendant's actions were reckless.

What factors are considered when determining whether driving was reckless?

When determining whether driving was reckless, multiple factors are taken into consideration. Firstly, the rate of speed and manner of operation of the defendant's vehicle are examined. The physical condition of the defendant and their ability to see and control the vehicle are also important factors. Additionally, the condition of the defendant's vehicle itself is assessed. 

The specifics of the road in question play a vital role. Factors such as the type of road and the presence of other vehicles and pedestrians are considered. The time of day, weather conditions, and the state of the road itself further contribute to the evaluation. Furthermore, the actions of any other vehicles or pedestrians present at the time of the incident are considered. Any additional factors that are deemed relevant by the jury are also considered in the determination of whether the driving was reckless.

Negligent Operation And OUI Charges

Very frequently, individuals who are charged and arrested for OUI/DUI are also charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle. The main offense being the OUI/DUI charge but police add a separate charge of negligent operation. It is fair to assume that if you are arrested and charged with OUI/DUI that you were operating a motor vehicle in a manner that would put the lives or safety of the public at risk.

Additional charges when added to an OUI arrest provide flexibility to you and also the jury or judge who will hear the case. Negligent Operation convictions have less severe consequences than OUI/DUI convictions. Often a jury or judge may found a defendant not guilty of the OUI/DUI but guilty of the lesser charge of Negligent Operation. It provides flexibility.

Consequences Of Negligent Operation Convictions

A conviction of negligent operation can carry serious penalties, fines and license suspension consequences.

If convicted of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, possible penalties include:

  • Up to 2 Years in Jail
  • Driver's License Suspension of a minimum 60 days and up to a one year license suspension
  • Court Fines and Fees

Continuance Without A Finding (CWOF) And Negligent Operation

One main difference between an OUI/DUI and Negligent Operation is that a Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF) to the Negligent Operation charge does not carry any license suspension.

For the Registry of Motor Vehicles to suspend a drivers license for negligent operation there must be a guilty finding. Anything short of a guilty and there can be no suspension.

A continuance without a finding can result in probation and court fines, fees but it will not generate a license suspension.

Receiving A Citation For Negligent Operation And Not Arrested

If you were not arrested, but received a ticket/citation by the police and charged with negligent operation/reckless operation or driving to endanger, you have the right to a Clerk Magistrate's Hearing.

A Clerk Magistrate's Hearing is called a Show Cause Hearing. A Show Cause Hearing allows you to contest the charge prior to the issuance of the criminal compliant against you.

It is always a benefit to contest Negligent Operation charges. Contesting the charges a Show Cause Hearing provides you the opportunity to resolve the case before it becomes a formal charge and before it ever goes on your record.

If you and your Attorney are able to be successful at the Show Cause Hearing, typically clerk's will agree to resolve the whole case by assessing a fine or requiring you to complete a driving retraining course. If you comply with the conditions imposed by the clerk, the case will be closed without a formal compliant being issued.

If successful at the Show Cause Hearing there will be no record of the charges on a criminal record and no license suspension.

What is the purpose of the Head Injury Treatment Services Fund?

The purpose of the Head Injury Treatment Services Trust Fund, is to provide and support both nonresidential and residential rehabilitation services for individuals suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). TBI refers to brain damage caused by an external force, resulting in a disruption of brain function. The fund aims to develop and maintain these rehabilitation services specifically for residents of the Commonwealth who have experienced brain injuries. Records from the Statewide Head Injury Program (SHIP) show that approximately 28,000 residents of the Commonwealth suffer from brain injuries each year, and among them are roughly 2,000 school-age children.

To fund the Head Injury Treatment Services Trust Fund, a specific provision is in place for individuals convicted of operating a motor vehicle negligently, thereby endangering the lives or safety of the public. These individuals, in addition to other penalties, are required to pay a fine of $250. Out of this fine, $150 is donated to the Head Injury Treatment Services Trust Fund. The remaining balance of the assessment is credited to the General Fund.

How To Request A Show Cause Or Clerk Magistrate Hearing

If you were issued a citation and you want to request a Show Cause or Magistrate Hearing you must sign the back of the citation under section three if it is a handwritten citation. If you received a electronically prepared citation you must sign the front of the citation.

After signing the ticket you must locate the court that is identified on the lower right hand corner of the ticket and deliver the it to the Clerks Office within Four Days.

What To Do If Convicted Of Negligent Operation

If you were charged and convicted of negligent operation, your drivers license will be suspended for at least 60 days and up to one year. The Registry of Motor Vehicles will not issue a hardship license or cinderella license if you have a suspension for negligent operating under any circumstances. The Registry takes the position that this is a mandatory license suspension and that they have no ability to grant any relief.

This is where Gilman Law, P.C., can help.  We have helped clients across Massachusetts suspended for negligent operation, get relief from the suspension by filing with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance Board of Appeals. The Board of Appeals has the statutory authority to grant you relief by ordering the Registry to issue you relief. This may be a hardship license or it could shorten your suspension.

Why Gilman Law, P.C.

At Gilman Law, P.C., we specialize in OUI/DUI and related motor vehicle crimes and license suspension law. We understand the ins and outs not just of the criminal charges but also the Registry of Motor Vehicle consequences.

It is important to speak to a law firm that understands not just the court process but also the collateral impacts when being charged with negligent operation. Gilman Law, P.C., has represented clients across Massachusetts and resolved these matters at the Clerk Magistrate Hearing thereby avoiding any formal charges being brought in court. Contact Gilman Law, P.C. today for a Free Consultation.


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