Massachusetts Appeals Court address what level of evidence is needed to convict for negligent operation. In Commonwealth v. Zagwyn, the Appeals Court clarified the law related to evidence of negligent operation of a motor vehicle and OUI in Massachusetts. The central issue addressed by Zagwgnwas whether the Commonwealth meets its burden of proof on the negligent operation charge when the evidence demonstrates solely that the defendant was operating a vehicle with a defective headlight and rear license plate while intoxicated. The court also considered whether the officer’s opinion testimony that defendant was too intoxicated to drive a motor vehicle, the ultimate issue of guilt on the OUI charge, was improper and created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. In considering those arguments related to the OUI charge, the SJC summarily affirmed the defendant’s conviction for those reasons stated by the Appeals Court and offers no further discussion of the charge.
On the negligent operation charge, the SJC ruled that the evidence was inadequate to support the jury’s conviction and reversed the judgment of conviction. The evidence in Zagwynshowed that the arresting officer noticed that defendant’s vehicle had a broken headlight and rear plate light. He followed defendant’s vehicle for about a mile before pulling him over. While following defendant’s vehicle, the officer did not observe defendant speeding, swerving, or making any sudden braking movements. When the officer stopped defendant’s vehicle, he moved the vehicle to a safe location. Evidence obtained during the stop showed that defendant was operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The Commonwealth did not present any additional evidence of negligent operation. Defendant was convicted of OUI, negligent operation of a motor vehicle after a jury trial in the Barnstable District Court. The trial court also found defendant was responsible for civil equipment violations for the faulty headlight and rear plate light.
Prior case law dealing with negligent operation and what is enough evidence