State v. Free

In State v. Free, Vt. , 749 A.2d 622 (2000), the Court affirmed the trial court's decision dismissing the charge of grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle because the facts could not support a finding of gross negligence. See id. at 605, 749 A.2d at 623. The evidence in Free showed that the defendant was traveling at ten to fifteen miles per hour during daylight hours when he entered the intersection of Main Street and Morgan Street in Bennington. The defendant turned onto Morgan Street, but failed to notice a pedestrian in the well-marked crosswalk, although the accident reconstructionist testified that the pedestrian had been in the crosswalk for four to five seconds before the defendant hit him. The Court held that the defendant's inattention to a pedestrian for a mere three to four seconds - as he must have spent one to two seconds of the total five seconds observing the traffic flow - "indicates, at best, a mere error in judgment, loss of presence of mind, or momentary inattention." Id. at , 749 A.2d at 625. Such brief inattention, the Court concluded, was not sufficient to support a conviction for gross negligence. See id.