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Driving to Endanger

Driving to Endanger

"Driving to Endanger," or DTE as is is commonly referred to, is a Class E crime (misdemeanor) in the State of Maine. Now, if you just read the title of the crime, you might have thought to yourself "what does it mean to drive to endanger?" Great question. The legislature has defined DTE in the following manner: "A person commits a Class E crime if, with criminal negligence as defined in Title 17-A, that person drives a motor vehicle in any place in a manner that endangers the property of another or a person, including the operator or passenger in the motor vehicle being driven."

Now you might have noticed that the statute uses the word "endangers" to describe what it means to drive to endanger. For anybody else whose third grade teacher told them not to use the word you are defining in the definition of the word, don't worry, you haven' missed the point; in fact you are right on track. The statute is intentionally vague.

In fact once upon a time the statute did not contain the "with criminal negligence"  language until the Law Court (Maine Supreme Judicial Court) decided  in a 1979 case called State v. Davis that without the "with criminal negligence" part the statute was so vague that it did not "give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of the conduct that is prohibited" and such was unconstitutional in its vagueness. Wow! The Law Court then determined that criminal negligence was an essential element and the Legislature would later re-write the statute. 

A person is criminally negligent when when "the person fails to be aware of a risk that the person's conduct will cause such a result." That is still some pretty broad language, and the State can use that broadness to charge wide variety of driving-related conduct as driving to endanger. So what does driving to endanger really mean? In theory it means a great many things that we could probably all agree on. Driving 60 MPH through a playground full of children for instance sounds pretty clear cut. In practice, however, it is going to come down to the specific facts of each individual case and the only people who can decide what driving to endanger means, is a jury of your peers.

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If you have been charged with DTE or any other crime, call Conley & Wirick, P.A. today for representation for diligent and zealous representation.

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