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Massachusetts G.L.c. 90, § 24 (2)(a): Operating to Endanger

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, section 24 governs a wide variety of motor vehicle related criminal offenses. Specifically, under section 24(2)(a) a person may be charged with operating to endanger, also commonly referred to as negligent or reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

The relevant portion of the statute defines this offense as follows:

“Whoever upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access, or any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle recklessly, or operates such a vehicle negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered…”

A conviction of a charge under this section requires that the government prove three essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, the government must prove that the defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  2. Second, they must prove that this operation occurred on a public way, or in a place where members of the public have access;
  3. Finally, they must prove that this operation was in a negligent manner, such that it endangered the lives or safety of the public.

Essential to the prosecution of a charge under this section is the element of reckless or negligent conduct. Under the law a person acts negligently when he/she acts in a way that a reasonable person would not. Negligence can come from an affirmative action or a failure to act – that is a person may be negligent if he/she does something that a reasonable person would not do, or if he/she fails to do something that a reasonable person would do.

In determining whether or not an individual is guilty of the offense of negligent operation there are a variety of factors that may be considered, such as the rate of speed, the manner of operation, the physical condition of the operator, the condition of the vehicle, road conditions, location, time of day, weather conditions, other traffic on the road, pedestrian traffic and other relevant factors.

The fact that an accident occurred is not by itself sufficient evidence to prove negligent operation; further, a person may be guilty of negligent operation even if no accident occurred. The ultimate question comes down to whether or not the defendant drove as a reasonable person would have under the circumstances.


A person convicted of negligent operation under this statute may face a penalty of not less than 2 weeks in the house of correction, or a maximum of 2 years in the house of correction; a fine of not less than $20 nor more than $200, or both such fine and imprisonment.

Offenses under this section can often be resolved without the offender having to serve any time in jail, and may even be resolved in a way that would help preserve the criminal record of the defendant.

Defenses to Charges of Negligent Operation

Experienced criminal defense attorneys will be able to help you explore all options for defenses to motor vehicle related charge, including a charge of negligent operation. Some possible defenses to such a charge may include if you were not operating on a public way or in a place where the public had a right to access, such as a private property or driveway. Additionally, if the incident involved another the vehicle, the negligence or intoxication of another driver may in certain circumstances be a defense to such a charge. Finally, if there were emergency circumstances involved this also may serve as a potential defense to a negligent operation charge.

Related Offenses:
  • M.G.L. c. 90 § 24(1) – Operating Under the Influence
  • M.G.L. c. 90 § 24G – Vehicular Homicide
  • M.G.L. c. 90 § 24(2) (a) – Leaving the Scene of an Accident – Property Damage
  • M.G.L. c. 90 § 24(2)(a ½)(1) – Leaving the Scene of an Accident – Personal Injury
  • M.G.L. c. 90 § 24(2)(a ½)(1) – Leaving the Scene of an Accident – Resulting in Death
Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer 617-263-6800

If you or someone you know has been charged with motor vehicle related crime in Massachusetts, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. Attorney Neyman has multiple decades of experience defending those who have been accused of such offenses in Boston and all throughout Massachusetts. You can reach Attorney Neyman by calling 617-263-6800 or by sending him an email at steve@neymanlaw.com. He offers free and confidential initial consultations, which he will schedule at your convenience.

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