Motor Vehicle and Traffic Offenses

Motor Vehicle and Traffic Offenses

Since 2002 I have helped a countless number of individuals charged with driving offenses. These driving offenses range from misdemeanors to felony charges, and include:

  • Attaching Wrong Plates to Conceal Identity
  • False Statement in License Application
  • Homicide by a Motor Vehicle (Felony)
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident
  • Leaving the Scene of Personal Injury
  • Operating an Uninsured Motor Vehicle
  • Operating Negligently So As To Endanger
  • Operating Recklessly
  • Refusal to Obey Police Officer
  • Road Racing
  • Use of Vehicle Without Authority

If you’ve been charged with one of these or another motor vehicle or traffic offense, It is very important to have an experienced attorney on your side, working to protect your rights. Depending on the number of times you are found civilly responsible or criminal guilty of motor vehicle offenses, you could be found to be a habitual traffic offender and lose your license up to four years. I provide affordable and tenacious counsel in seeking to preserve the legal innocence of clients.

For a brief description of each of these offenses, please see below:

Leaving the Scene of an Accident

It is a crime to hit another person or their property and leave without providing identifying information. Generally, you can be charged for this crime if you were operating a motor vehicle, struck another individual or their property, and knew you struck this person/property, and drove away.

The main focus of the law is on the accident itself, not necessarily who is at fault. This means that whether or not you may have caused the accident, if your car collides with another person or someone else’s property, you have a duty to remain at the scene of the collision, or to leave your information if the person who owns the property whom you struck (such as a parked car) is not present.

There is a duty to stop and provide this information so that in the future, the injured party can find the defendant. The statute imposes a duty to stop while still at the scene of the crime and the offender must take the initiative to provide the specified information to be in compliance. If the injured party is unable to take in information of the offender, there is a duty, on the defendant’s behalf, to provide the information to someone acting in the injured person’s interest or to a law enforcement official.

Only those who operate the vehicle can be held liable under this statue; it does not extend to passengers or owners who are not in operation.

For property offenses, the government must be able to show the link between the accident and the damaged property to hold a defendant liable.

Operating Negligently So As To Endanger & Operating Recklessly

Operating a vehicle negligently or recklessly can consist of many actions, such as weaving between lanes, tailgating, or failing to stay in a lane.

Driving Offenses that Could Result in Criminal Penalties

Reckless Driving

A driver is considered reckless if they drive in a manner that is likely, or should be

known to be likely, to result in death or serious harm to others. A reckless person is indifferent as to whether someone could be killed or seriously injured because of their conduct. The driver knows, or should know, the risk and proceeds in a reckless fashion without addressing the serious risk involved with his/her actions. This offense can still occur on deserted streets, meaning that the public does not have to be present for the crime to occur.

Negligent Driving

A negligent driver fails to take the proper care to assure that he/she is driving in a responsible manner. Negligence is judged by a reasonable person standard, meaning that the driver must act consistently with how the average driver in his/her situation would act as to not be considered negligent. The act can be either be doing something or failing to do something that the average person would do.

To be held criminally liable for driving negligently as to endanger no one need be actually injured, it is enough to show that someone could have been endangered by the driver’s manner of operation.

Some of the factors that courts consider for both reckless and negligent driving include:

  • rate of speed
  • manner of driving
  • the driver’s physical condition (such as whether they were intoxicated or using drugs)
  • vehicle condition
  • type of road the accident occurred on and its surroundings
  • weather and conditions of the road
  • what was going on with the surroundings, what were people doing
  • Potential danger to the public

What are the differences between the offenses?

The difference between the two offenses is that for a reckless driving offense the prosecution must be able to show that the driver knew he/she was operating recklessly and still disregarded any risk. In a negligence case, the prosecution need only show that the driver operated the vehicle negligently (or not according to what should be expected); not that the driver knew he/she was operating the vehicle in such a fashion.

Are there any potential defenses?

For a charge of negligence, the driver can use the defense of an emergency. In such a case, the driver must still act as the average person would but the standard changes to the average person who is also in an emergency.

Operating an Uninsured Motor Vehicle

This is a common motor vehicle offense. Due to the day to day hectic lives we all live, sometimes we forget to pay for our car insurance. In Massachusetts and other states where insurance is mandatory, it is a crime to drive without valid insurance. A conviction of this offense can have many penalties, including a fine and loss of license.

Homicide By a Motor Vehicle

This is one of the more serious felony charges and can result in a very long jail sentence and loss of license. Generally, one is accused of this crime when they are alleged to have operated a motor vehicle on a public way, either recklessly or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and this operation of a motor vehicle caused the death of another individual.

Attaching Wrong Plates to Conceal

This crime refers to situations when a person attaches a license plate to their vehicle that belongs to another motor vehicle. In this situation, it is perceived that the individual is trying to conceal the true ownership of their car. It is a crime to do this and can have an impact on your right to drive and the cost of your insurance.

False Statement in License Application

For this crime, generally one is charged with making false statements on an application to obtain one’s driver’s license. A person has to know that statement is false when making it. Although this may appear minor, it may still have an impact on your ability to obtain a driver’s license in the future and result in fines and penalties.

Refusal to Obey Police Officer

Compliance with lawful requests of police officers is important to effectively running a law enforcement system. It can be very easy to misunderstand in a tense situation and that simple misunderstanding can have criminal consequences.

Ways to be charged with this crime:

Non-compliance of a police officer’s orders is a criminal offense. It can occur in a variety of ways:

  1. Refusing or neglecting to stop when signaled by a police officer
  2. Refusal to give name, address, name and address of the owner of the vehicle, or providing a false name or address, when asked by a law enforcement official
  3. Refusal to sign his/her name when requested by an officer
  4. Refusal to produce, or allow an officer to examine, a license or certificate upon his/her request
  5. Failure to surrender license, registration number, or license plate number.

What does the government have to show?

To be found criminally liable, the officer must have his badge displayed in a way in which the average person would recognize his/her authority or be dressed in uniform. The offender must also have heard the request and intentionally disobeyed or refused to comply. Most importantly the government must show that the defendant was the driver or in charge of the vehicle at the time of the request. For this to be true you must have active control of the vehicle, or be in such close proximity that you can drive away.

What is not punishable:

The right an officer has to stop a car does not give him/her the right to search the car without the proper warrant or circumstances.

Additionally, officers cannot randomly stop vehicles at night without probable cause. This is commonly referred to as “roadwatch”.

Road Racing

It is illegal to race on public roads.  Conviction of road racing can result in penalties including loss of license and jail!

Use of Vehicle Without Authority

It is a crime to borrow another’s car without permission. If you know that you do not have permission, but take the car anyway you could face penalties including jail and loss of license.

How I Can Help

If you have been charged with a vehicle offense, please call me for a free consultation to learn how I can help.  Don’t risk putting your license in jeopardy or possible fines (or even incarceration) without having an experience criminal defense lawyer advocating for your rights.

How Can I Help?