What is Criminal Negligence?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Marc Lenahan with Lenahan Law Firm.

What is Criminal Negligence?
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Criminal negligence occurs when someone should reasonably have been aware of the dangers of their action yet acted anyway without regard for their own and others’ safety. In some states, criminal negligence may be referred to as recklessness. or the terms may be interchangeable. A jury may decide that a behavior or choice was criminally negligent when another person in the same situation would be more likely than not to have recognized and mitigated the risks involved.

Criminal negligence differs from civil negligence in that it generally involves a severe departure from how a reasonable person would have conducted themselves in the same situation, and the damages are often more severe involving catastrophic injury or death. If you have been charged with criminal negligence, contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and learn more about your options for defense.

Some examples of criminal negligence include the following:

  • Texting while driving.
  • Speeding at 40 miles per hour or more over the speed limit.
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Firing a weapon into the air.
  • Leaving a child unattended in a car in hot weather.
  • Leaving a child unattended with a spouse or other person with a history of abusive behavior.
  • Leaving a child unattended anywhere under the age when the child could reasonably care for themself.
  • Interfering with someone holding a loaded weapon for reasons other than self-defense.
  • Medical staff who forget or fail to feed or provide necessary care for a patient.
  • Prescribing addictive drugs to a previous or current drug addict.

Criminal and civil negligence differ in a variety of ways.

In cases involving civil negligence, the injuries are often less serious and require a different level of proof to be litigated. To prove that civil negligence occurred, all that must be proven is that it is more likely than not that the accused party behaved negligent. Additionally, the punishments for the party decided to be liable are often far less severe though they can involve a great deal of monetary compensation.

However, in cases involving criminal negligence, the injuries sustained by a victim are often extremely severe and may even involve one or more fatalities. The evidence presented in a criminal negligence case must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Similarly, because the charges are criminal rather than civil, the type of punishment the guilty party may be assigned tends to be more severe. A defendant decided to be guilty of criminal negligence may be required to serve time in county jail in addition to receiving fines, probation, and/or community service.

There are a variety of defenses in a criminal negligence case, primarily regarding whether the accused should or should not have been aware of the risks of their actions.

In a criminal negligence case, intent is not a factor. This means that when defending against criminal negligence charges, the most effective type of defense is to attempt to prove that the act which caused harm was a result of a simple mistake that anyone could have made. Since negligence/recklessness implies that a person was aware of or should have been aware of the dangers of their actions, proving that the accused had no way of reasonably identifying the danger is one of the only ways to defend against this charge.

To discuss your situation with an attorney or to learn more about what constitutes criminal negligence, reach out to a criminal defense attorney.

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