OPERATING NEGLIGENTLY SO AS TO ENDANGER
This post on “operating negligently so as to endanger” will address the following legal questions:
What does it mean to “operate negligently so as to endanger”?
A defendant can be charged with “operating negligently so as to endanger”if he or she is operating a motor vehicle negligently in a manner that might endanger the public.
Commonwealth law officially states that:
“Whoever, upon any way or in any place which the public has a right of 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…”
How does the Commonwealth prove the defendant guilty of operating negligently so as to endanger?
In order to prove a defendant guilty of operating negligently so as to endanger, the Commonwealth must prove all three of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
Can a defendant still be found guilty of operating negligently so as to endanger even if there was no accident?
A person can be found to have driven negligently even if no accident resulted, and even if there was no one else actually on the road to be put in danger.
A person is legally considered negligent if he or she drives in a way that has the potential to cause an accident or to endanger anyone who might be on the road.
Legally, what does it mean for a person to act negligently?
A person acts negligently when he or she fails to use due care. This means the person acts in a way that a reasonable person would not act.
A person can act negligently either by doing something a reasonably prudent person would not do under those circumstances, or by failing to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do.
In the case of “operating negligently so as to endanger”, the defendant acted negligently if he or she drove in a way that a reasonable person would not have, and by doing so created an unnecessary danger to other people —a danger that he or she could have avoided by driving more carefully.
Is the fact that an accident occurred enough evidence to prove a defendant guilty of operating negligently so as to endanger?
The fact that an accident occurred is not by itself evidence that the defendant was negligent. Jurors are required to examine all the evidence about how the accident happened in order to determine whether any negligence was involved, and if so, whether that negligence was the defendant’s.
Remember that an alleged victim of a defendant charged with operating so as to endanger may be permitted to testify as to the physical injuries sustained in the accident, since the nature and extent of such injuries are relevant to the issue of negligence.
What facts do jurors take into account in determining if a defendant drove negligently in a manner that might have endangered the public?
In determining whether the defendant drove negligently in a manner that might have endangered the public, jurors will likely take into account all of the following facts of the situation:
Note that all of these individual factors are not negligence per se but can be considered with other evidence in determining negligence.
Also note that regardless of the amount of other vehicles or pedestrians on the road in question, reckless operation can occur, even on a deserted street.
Does the defendant’s intent matter in determining if he or she acted negligently?
If jurors find that the defendant acted negligently, the defendant’s intent is not relevant in determining if the defendant operated negligently so as to endanger.
Note that jurors are not required to find that the defendant intended to act negligently or unlawfully. Public safety requires each driver to determine and adhere to an objective standard of reasonable behavior meaning the defendant’s subjective intent is irrelevant. The real issue is whether or not the person drove as a reasonable person would have under the existing circumstances.
Who is legally responsible if the driver of another vehicle involved was negligent or intoxicated?
It is the job of jurors to determine what role a driver’s negligence or intoxication played in a case in which they have concluded the other drive was indeed negligent or intoxicated.
Remember that the other driver’s driving is irrelevant to the defendant’s guilt or innocence on the charge of operating negligently so as to endanger unless the other driver was the sole cause of what happened.
The defendant is not excused merely because the other driver was negligent or intoxicated, if the defendant’s negligence was the direct cause of what happened, and the other driver’s negligence or intoxication merely aggravated the result.
On the other hand, if the other driver’s negligence or intoxication was the sole cause of what happened and the defendant was not negligent, then the defendant must be found not guilty.
Note that a judge must admit evidence of another driver’s negligence if it would warrant a finding that the sole negligence was that of the other driver.
What happens if the alleged negligent conduct was conducted during an emergency situation?
In determining whether the defendant’s conduct was negligent, jurors may consider whether there was a sudden emergency that required a rapid decision. If there was, jurors must determine whether the defendant acted as a reasonable person would under similar emergency circumstances.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.
Source: Instruction 5.240