An Ayer District Court jury took only 15 minutes today to find a client of Spring & Spring not guilty of negligently operating his motor vehicle. Attorney Chris Spring tried the case.
Early in the morning on Valentine’s Day, 2013, our client was leaving his girlfriend’s home in Boxborough. As he exited his girlfriend’s apartment complex and merged onto Route 111 eastbound, he was momentarily blinded by the early-morning sun. As a result, he rear-ended the car in front of him, which happened to be an undercover police cruiser. The officer in the cruiser had stopped to lend assistance to the participants of another motor vehicle accident. The officer was injured and taken to the hospital. A sergeant arrived at the scene to investigate. His report indicated that our client’s vehicle had a thin layer of ice covering the windshield, which impeded our client’s vision. While the sergeant admitted that there was direct sunlight rising in the direction our client was driving, he concluded that our client should not have had a problem seeing the emergency lights of the cruiser he struck.
In order to convict someone of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1) operated a motor vehicle; (2) on a public way; (3) in a negligent manner such that the public’s safety might have been endangered. Negligence is a legal term meaning that the person failed to act as a reasonable person would have acted. In the context of car accident cases, it can mean that the defendant was speeding, weaving, or otherwise driving erratically. There was no evidence, other than the accident itself, that our client had driven in an unsafe manner. Instead, it was the Commonwealth’s theory that our client had failed to appropriately clear his windshield of ice and frost, and his resulting impaired vision had caused him to crash into the police officer.
At trial, the sergeant testified that our client’s windshield had been 75% covered by frost. However, in the pictures he took within 10 minutes of arriving at the scene, there was no frost on the windshield. The Commonwealth’s argument was that the frost had melted during the time between the accident and the picture being taken. We pointed out to the jury that the windshield appeared to be completely dry. If there had been frost that had melted, we could expect to see some residual water drops or moisture on the windshield. We argued to the jury that because the windshield appeared to be dry, it is unreasonable to think that frost had covered it only 10 minutes earlier. We also admitted into evidence a photograph we took of the intersection at sunrise, which illustrated the position of the sun and the blinding effect it could have had on any driver.
The jury acquitted our client of negligent operation, which is a crime that carries a potential jail sentence and a driver’s license suspension. While this seems like a minor criminal charge, a conviction can result in serious consequences. If you are charged with negligent operation, or any other crime, it is in your best interest to immediately make an appointment to speak to a criminal defense attorney.