What Are the Penalties for Reckless Driving in Massachusetts?

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

In Massachusetts, driving in a manner that endangers others can lead to criminal charges for:

  • "reckless operation," or
  • "negligent operation."

These 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.

What Is Reckless Driving in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, "reckless operation" has several parts (called "elements") that the prosecutor must prove to get a conviction. These elements are:

  • the operation of a motor vehicle
  • on a public roadway or roadway to which the public has access, and
  • the intentional failure to take necessary care in disregard of the probable harmful consequences to others.

The third element essentially requires the prosecution to prove that the driver appreciated but disregarded the risk of the conduct.

What Is Negligent Operation in Massachusetts?

"Negligent operation" shares the first two elements with reckless operation. However, the third element is different. So, to get a negligent operation conviction, the prosecution needs to prove:

  • the operation of a motor vehicle
  • on a public roadway or roadway to which the public has access, and
  • negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered.

In other words, the third element doesn't require a showing that the motorist actually realized the hazards posed by his or her driving.

Reckless and Negligent Operation Penalties in Massachusetts

Fines and jail time. A reckless or negligent operation conviction carries:

  • two weeks to two years in jail, and/or
  • $20 to $200 in fines.

License suspension. Both types of convictions also carry a license suspension of:

  • at least 60 days for a first offense, and
  • at least one year for a second offense within three years.

Assessment fees. For negligent operation, there's an additional $250 assessment.

Traffic violation points. Reckless driving will result in five points being assessed to the motorist's driving record. Negligent operation is a two-point offense.

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."

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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