In the case of Commonwealth v. Fetherston, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently upheld the defendant’s negligent operation conviction. In Massachusetts, negligent operation or operating so as to endanger triggers a minmum 60 day license suspension and both offenses count as major violations which could trigger 4 year revocations under the Massachusetts Habitual Traffic Offender program.
]Dermot J. Fetherston was charged with drunk driving and negligent operation, so as to endanger. Two off-duty Massachusetts State Troopers saw drive off the road on Route 1 in Walpole, Massachusetts. He struck a stone wall and admitted that he was coming from a bar which was located 2 miles from the accident scene.
Troopers could detect a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from Fetherston’s mouth area. His speech was slurred and his eyes were glossy and bloodshot. He failed field sobriety tests.
Fetherston challenged his negligent operation conviction on the grounds that mere involvement in an accident does not, by itself, constitute the crime of negligent operation. The essential elements of negligent operation of a motor vehicle are: (1) operation of a motor vehicle, (2) upon a public way, (3) recklessly or negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered. Fetherston’s lawyer claimed that there was no evidence that he was speeding or driving in an erratic manner. The Appeals Court noted that while he was driving, Fetherston’s car left the road, struck a nearby wall, and then returned to the roadway sideways. There was no evidence of any cause of the crash such as inclement weather or obstructions in the road. The only apparent cause was improper driving which may have endangered the public.