Driving to Endanger Defense
Cambridge Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with Driving to Endanger, you may feel somewhat confused by the allegation of reckless driving, especially if you feel that you were driving in a reasonably safe, or at least not in an unsafe, manner. Whether or not to arrest a motorist for driving in a dangerous manner is often based on the police officer’s opinion alone, as there is little statutory guidance on what constitutes driving to endanger. The criminal defense lawyers at the Mahoney Criminal Defense Group have been successfully defending those accused of driving to endanger for 20 years.
Elements of the Crime
Driving to endanger, like motor vehicle homicide, is a “negligence” crime. Under G.L. c. 90, §24(2)(a), to convict a motorist of driving to endanger, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant was driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged dangerous operation;
- On a public way; and,
- In a negligent manner endangering the lives or safety of the public.
If the Commonwealth cannot prove all three elements of this crime, the defendant is entitled to a not guilty verdict. For example, if the prosecution is unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving the motor vehicle at the time of the alleged incident, the defendant must be acquitted.
What is a Public Way?
Any street, road or highway that is open to the public and is controlled and maintained by some level of the local, state, or federal government is a “public way” for purposes of G.L. c. 90, §24(2)(a). This would include, for example, interstate and state highways.
Publically accessed ways also qualify as “public” ways, such as parking lots. Under appropriate circumstances, a private driveway may qualify as a “public” way.
What Constitutes Negligent Operation?
An individual is negligent when he fails to use due care. In other words, he does something a reasonable person would not have done or fails to do something that a reasonable person would have done. More specifically, a motorist drives negligently if he drives in a manner that a reasonable motorist would not have, and thereby created an unnecessary danger to other motorists or pedestrians.
When considering whether or not an individual operated the vehicle negligently, many factors may be considered, including the speed at which vehicle was operated, visibility, the defendant’s condition, the vehicle’s condition, time of day, weather, road surface and condition, and the behavior of other vehicles or pedestrians on the same roadway. Speeding alone is not usually sufficient to prove negligent operation, but combined with other factors, may constitute negligence.
To prove negligent operation, the Commonwealth need not demonstrate that the defendant caused an accident, or even that an accident occurred. Instead, the District Attorney’s Office need only show that the defendant’s driving increased the likelihood that an accident might occur. Of course, any time an individual drives his car to the store he necessarily increases the likelihood of an accident, if for no other reason than that it adds one more vehicle to our roads. That said, a police officer may charge a motorist for driving to endanger for having texted while driving.
What Constitutes Reckless Operation?
Reckless operation is similar to negligence, but requires more than negligence; it is intentionally driving dangerously, knowing full well the risk of harm the motorist poses to others. Running a stop sign or red light, crossing the center lane, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs are all examples of reckless operation. To prove the charge of reckless operation, the Commonwealth must prove the defendant drove his vehicle in a manner that demonstrated complete disregard for the well being of other motorists and pedestrians.
As is with negligent operation, to prove a charge of reckless operation the Commonwealth need not show the defendant caused an accident or, indeed, that any accident occurred.
Contact a Cambridge Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been charged with driving to endanger or reckless operation of a motor vehicle, call our office at 617-492-0055 to schedule a free, in-office consultation.
Recent Results for Driving to Endanger Cases
Commonwealth vs. C.M., Brockton District Court (2013)
Reckless Driving: Complaint Denied
Malicious Destruction of Property: Complaint Denied
At Clerk Magistrate’s hearing police and alleged victim accused client of cutting off victim in traffic, following him home, and ramming his motor vehicle into victim’s motor vehicle to prevent the victim from fleeing. Clerk denied the application for the criminal complaint against the client. Case dismissed.