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Massachusetts G.L.c. 90, § 24G: Motor Vehicle Homicide

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, section 24 governs a wide variety of motor vehicle related criminal offenses. Specifically, under section 24G a person may be charged with homicide by motor vehicle, also commonly referred to as vehicular homicide. A prosecution under this section can be based upon a variety of theories, each requiring different elements of the offense and providing for different penalties.

Specifically, the statute defines three different theories under which a person may be guilty of motor vehicle homicide: (a) homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating substance, (b) homicide by motor vehicle, and (c) reckless homicide by motor vehicle.

Homicide by Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Intoxicating Substance:

Section 24G(a) pertains to a charge of homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating substance; this section provides that:

“Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access, or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle with a percentage, by weight, of alcohol in their blood of.08 or greater, or while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, or of marijuana, narcotic drugs, depressants or stimulant substances […] so operates a motor vehicle recklessly or negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered, and by any such operation so described causes the death of another person, shall be guilty of homicide by a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance...”

A conviction of a charge under section 24G(a) requires that the government prove several essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, the government must prove that the defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  2. That this operation occurred on a public way, or in a place where members of the public have access;
  3. That the operator was under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicating substance;
  4. That the operation was reckless or negligent; and
  5. That this reckless or negligent operation caused the death of another.
Penalties

A person convicted under this section of motor vehicle homicide while under the influence may face a penalty of imprisonment in state prison for not less than 2 ½ years and up to 15 years and a fine of not more than $5,000; or by imprisonment in house of correction for not less than 1 year and not more than 2 ½ years and a fine of not more than $5,000. A conviction under this section carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year.

Homicide by Motor Vehicle

Section 24G(b) pertains to the less serious charge of homicide by motor vehicle; this section provides that:

“Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle with a percentage, by weight, of alcohol in their blood of.08 or greater, or while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, or of marijuana, narcotic drugs, depressants or stimulant substances, […] or whoever operates a motor vehicle negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered and by any such operation causes the death of another person, shall be guilty of homicide by a motor vehicle...”

A conviction of a charge under section 24G(b) requires that the government prove several similar elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, the government must prove that the defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  2. That this operation occurred on a public way, or in a place where members of the public have access;
  3. The Commonwealth must then prove one of the following:
    • a. That the operator was under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicating substance; or
    • b. That the operation was reckless; or
    • c. That the operation was negligent;
  4. And, that these actions of the defendant caused the death of another.

In order to prosecute under this section the government may, but is not required to, prove that the operator was under the influence of an intoxicating substance; this distinguishes a charge under section 24G(b) from the preceding section.

Penalties

A person convicted under this section of the statute of motor vehicle homicide may face a penalty of imprisonment in state prison or house of correction for not less than 30 days and up to 2 ½ years, or by a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $3,000; or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Reckless Homicide by Motor Vehicle:

Section 24G(c) pertains to the final section of the statute charging reckless homicide by motor vehicle; this section provides that:

“Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle recklessly so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered and by any such operation causes the death of another person, shall be guilty of reckless homicide by a motor vehicle…”

A conviction of a charge under section 24G(c) requires that the government prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That the defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  2. That this operation occurred on a public way, or in a place where members of the public have access;
  3. That this operation was reckless, such that the lives or safety of the public could be endangered; and
  4. That such reckless operation did cause the death of another.

Reckless operation occurs when a person consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the lives or safety of others might be endangered.

Penalties

A person convicted under this section of the statute of reckless motor vehicle homicide may face a penalty of imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years or imprisonment in state prison for not more than 5 years; or by a fine of not more than $3,000, or both such fine and imprisonment.

Defenses to Charges of Homicide by Motor Vehicle

Experienced criminal defense attorneys will be able to help you explore all options for defenses and favorable resolutions to any charge of motor vehicle homicide. A common defense to such a charge may be that the death was the result of an accident, or that the defendant’s actions were not the direct cause of the victim’s death.

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

If you or someone you know has been charged with motor vehicle homicide 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. He is an aggressive and smart attorney who is relentless in protecting the rights of his clients. 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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