Massachusetts’s Reckless and Negligent Operation (Driving) Laws

Read about Massachusetts’s reckless and negligent driving laws and the consequences of a conviction.

In Massachusetts, “reckless operation” and “negligent operation” are two separate offenses, with slightly different penalties. But the difference between the offenses is often fuzzy. With both crimes, there must be proof that the person’s driving endangered others. The distinction lies in the mental state of the motorist. To be convicted of reckless operation, the prosecution needs to prove that the driver appreciated but disregarded the risk of the conduct. Negligent operation, on the other hand, doesn’t require a showing that the motorist actually realized the hazards posed by his or her driving.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 90, § 24(2)(a) (2016); Com. v. Rand, 363 Mass. 554 (1973).)

Reckless and Negligent Operation Penalties

A reckless or negligent operation conviction carries two weeks to two years in jail and/or $20 to $200 in fines. For negligent operation, there’s an additional $250 assessment. Convicted motorists also face a license suspension of at least 60 days for a first offense and a minimum one-year suspension for a second offense within three years.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 90, § 24 (2016).)

Reckless Driving and OUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In Massachusetts, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with operating under the influence (OUI) (also called “driving under the influence,” or DUI) to plea bargain for a lesser charge. When a DUI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a “wet reckless.”

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Generally speaking, sentencing law is complex and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including the severity of the damage at issue, credits for good in-custody behavior, and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

The consequences of a reckless driving conviction in Massachusetts can be serious. If you’ve been arrested for or charged with reckless driving, get in contact with an experienced defense attorney. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on how best to handle your situation.

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