Negligent Driving Bill Clears House

BERLIN — Legislation with roots in Worcester County introduced by Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (R-38C) that would increase the penalties for causing life-threatening injuries by vehicle or vessel breezed through the House last week by a unanimous 140-0 vote.

Last year, a Stockton man drove through a work zone along a roadway in the south end of Worcester County, killing one county roads department employee and critically injuring another. The driver, Marion Jones, 60, was ultimately indicted on charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence manslaughter, negligent driving and reckless driving.

In August, Jones was found guilty of negligent driving and reckless endangerment and was fined $500 for each conviction. The vehicular manslaughter charges were not prosecuted. The case revealed a gap in current law when it comes to prosecuting individuals who cause life-threatening injuries with a vehicle in a criminally-negligent manner.

Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby brought the gap to Carozza’s attention, pointing out the only penalty on the books for Jones and others who cause life-threatening injuries with a vehicle was a motor vehicle citation carrying a maximum fine of $500. To that end, Carozza introduced House Bill 585, which would increase the potential penalties for causing life-threatening injuries while operating a vehicle or a vessel in a criminally-negligent manner to a maximum of two years imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine. Last week, the bill breezed through the House by a unanimous 140-0 vote and is now in the Senate.

Around 1:20 p.m. last Feb. 22, Jones drove through a county roads department work site on Greenbackville Road in Stockton, killing Worcester County Public Works Department employee Scott Tatterson, 48, of Pocomoke, and critically injuring another county roads department worker Wade Pusey, 23, of Seaford. Pusey was flown to Shock Trauma in Baltimore where he stayed for five weeks and received multiple operations.

Carozza said Oglesby brought the need for the legislation to her attention after it became clear to him the only offense for which the driver in last February’s tragic crash could be charged with in terms of Pusey’s life-threatening injuries was a motor vehicle citation carrying a maximum penalty of $500. Current law does provide that manslaughter by vehicle through criminal negligence is a misdemeanor subject to a maximum of three years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.