One of the major subjects today is the problem of “distracted driving”. It is the latest motor vehicle crime which is nearly over-taking drunk driving (OUI) in the headlines.

Just ask a certain police officer in Reading who, according to the CBS, may have been texting while driving. Apparently, a woman took a photo of the officer which shows a him with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a mobile device. The officer is looking down at the device which raises questions about whether the officer was texting.

The photographer claims that he was.

Texting while driving was banned in Massachusetts in 2010, but studies have shown distracted driving accounts for over a quarter of all highway deaths, not to mention severe injuries.

For example, the Boston Herald tells of a recent accident resulting in the hospitalization of a 60-year-old Pepperell woman who’s leg was almost completely severed off in a head-on collision in such an accident,

The other driver was 16-years-old who was allegedly texting behind the wheel. To make matters worse, the driver (hereinafter the “Defendant”) had gotten his driving license just two days prior.

“I cannot stress enough how dangerous it is for drivers to be distracted while at the wheel,” Chief David Scott said in a statement. “Anything that takes your attention away from the road, even for one second, can have devastating consequences. Please stay off of all electronic devices while driving, even if you are sitting in traffic, programming a GPS or changing the radio.”

The teen was cited for use of a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle and a marked lanes violation — both punishable by fines and the Registry of Motor Vehicles will review the status of his license, police said.

Of course, that is not all the Defendant risked in terms of criminal and civil justice.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Potential Consequences For Distracted Driving

As should be evident by now, drunk driving is not the only condition through which a driver can be found guilty of a crime.

“But, Sam, it seems that the penalty is only a fine. Surely, the police do not take it too seriously.”

That penalty, and potential license loss, is only a part of the story. Alleged misuse of a motor vehicle by a driver can be prosecuted in a number of ways aside from the “lower-level” criminal charges.

Want a few examples?

  1. Operating To Endanger

Mere negligent driving can be punished under a number of theories. One of the most common is Operating To Endanger. This is a crime in which the prosecutorial theory can be that, but for the driver’s “willful” negligence, such as distracted driving or driving when one knows or should know he/she is impaired poses a threat to the community. This does not require the person being effected by alcohol or drugs. It could merely be rushing or being too tired.

2.  Assault and Battery By Means Of A Dangerous Weapon, to wit: a Motor Vehicle

In this prosecutorial theory, the driver is alleged to have acted on purpose and causing his/her vehicle to hit/touch another person.

“What if it was only an accident?”

you say it was an accident. The circumstances may well lend themselves to a believe that you acted on purpose. The issue of intent will be something for a judge or jury to decide.

3. Vehicular Homicide
Here, there is no need for you to have acted on purpose. Mere negligence is enough if you have killed someone. We have discussed this, as well as cases Ian and I have successfully brought to trial with clients facing such a charge.

Although acquitted, I would bet that the clients would rather not have been charged in the first place.

4.  Leaving the Scene

Maybe you accidently hit someone or caused damage to property. But you panicked and left the scene without contacting the authorities. That was a serious crime that can not only bring serious penalties, but also severe bail conditions.

Obviously, in any of these crimes, or ones like them, the greater the damage you allegedly caused…the heavier the potential penalties. Further, this does not take into account potential civil penalties should a lawsuit arise out of the event.

Best advice: Don’t text and drive.

Second best advice: if you are facing such a problem, rush to retain the services of an experienced criminal lawyer to jump in and protect you and your rights right away.

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