With an increase in highway fatalities in Vermont this year, law enforcement has been stepping up their investigation and arrests of those that they feel are driving in a criminally negligent manner. Many of these cases, result in a criminal charge for “gross negligent operation. 23 VSA 1091(b)(2) defines gross negligence as ” examining whether the person engaged in conduct which involved a gross deviation from the care that a reasonable person would have exercised in that situation.”
The standard for GNO is rather broad and can encompass a large degree of alleged behavior, such as driving at excessive speeds, texting while driving or operating under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
One of the many keys to defending a GNO charge is to look critically at the operation of the motor vehicle and argue that the conduct does not amount to criminal negligence, which carries with it a significantly heavier burden then proving civil negligence.
To show criminal negligence, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the mental state involved in criminal negligence. Proof of that mental state requires that the failure to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur must be a gross deviation from the standard of a reasonable person. Criminal negligence is conduct which is such a departure from what would be that of an ordinary prudent or careful person in the same circumstance as to be incompatible with a proper regard for human life or an indifference to consequences. Criminal negligence is negligence that is aggravated, culpable or gross. See USlegal.com
Often prosecutors and law enforcement will produce experts reports to support their position that the conduct alleged amounts to gross negligence. If an accident is involved, these reports can include determinations by the expert that the accident was caused by the defendant’s failure to appreciate the risk that their operation of a motor vehicle was creating to himself and others.
Defending a gross negligent charge in Vermont involves a complex and multifaceted approach. Attacking the investigation itself while also looking critically at the facts that are not in dispute is an essential part of this process. Only though this analysis can a true determination be made as to the merits of the state’s case and in turn figuring out the best possible way to ensure that the individual charged with the offense is able to navigate their way to finding the best result.