Vermont's Negligent Operation (Reckless Driving) Laws and Penalties

Read about Vermont’s negligent operation laws and the consequences of a conviction.

Instead of “reckless driving,” Vermont uses the term “negligent operation.” The offense is divided into two types that carry different penalties: ordinary negligent operation and grossly negligent operation.

The difference between ordinary and grossly negligent operation is a matter of degree. A person can be convicted of ordinary negligent operation by failing to “exercise ordinary care” while driving. A grossly negligent operation conviction, on the other hand, requires proof that the motorist’s driving amounted to a “gross deviation from the care that a reasonable person would have exercised.”

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 23, § 1091 (2017).)

Negligent Operation Penalties

The possible penalties of an ordinary negligent operation conviction are:

  • First ordinary negligent operation. A first ordinary negligent operation violation carries up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines.
  • Second or subsequent ordinary negligent operation. For a second or subsequent ordinary negligent operation conviction, the motorist is looking at up to two years in jail and/or a maximum $3,000 in fines.
  • Ordinary negligent operation involving death or injuries. An ordinary negligent operation offender who causes death or “serious bodily injury” to another person faces up to two years in jail and/or a maximum $3,000 in fines. And the offender can be convicted of a separate violation for each person injured or killed.

For a grossly negligent operation violation, the consequences are more severe. The possible penalties for a conviction include:

  • First grossly negligent operation. A first grossly negligent operation violation carries up to two years in jail and/or a maximum $5,000 in fines.
  • Second or subsequent grossly negligent operation. For a second or subsequent grossly negligent operation conviction, the motorist is looking at up to four years in jail and/or a maximum $10,000 in fines.
  • Grossly negligent operation involving death or injuries. A grossly negligent operation offender who causes death or “serious bodily injury” to another person faces up to 15 years in jail and/or a maximum $15,000 in fines. And the offender can be convicted of a separate violation for each person injured or killed.

A negligent operation conviction will also add ten points to the motorist’s driving record. The motorist’s driver’s license will be suspended for 30 days for a first offense, 90 days on a second offense, and six months for a third violation.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 23, §§ 1091, 2502, 2506 (2017).)

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

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

Vermont law doesn’t prohibit plea bargaining in DUI cases. So, for someone who’s accused of driving under the influence in Vermont, plea bargaining for a negligent operation charge is a possibility.

(Read more about plea bargaining in Vermont DUI cases.)

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 facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for or charged with negligent operation, 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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