What Is Criminal Negligence?


Criminal negligence is a common concept in civil cases because negligent conducts like being distracted while driving and rear-ending an individual are not enough for a criminal conviction. 

What Criminal Negligence Entails

Criminal negligence is also known as culpable negligence. It is a situation where an individual disregards a life-threatening risk that a reasonable person would have perceived in the same context. It is also a gross deviation from the known care standard. 

Criminal negligence offenses include negligent vehicular homicide, child endangerment or criminal negligence, involuntary manslaughter, careless keeping of a dangerous pet, and negligent arms storage. 

The Nexus between Criminal Negligence and Recklessness

“Reckless” is a defendant’s simultaneous wanton or intentional disregard of a severe risk of harm. Instances of recklessness include drag racing, reckless driving, criminal vehicular homicide, and reckless firearm discharge toward a vehicle or house.  

Some courts believe recklessness differs from criminal negligence. According to them, recklessness is when a defendant acknowledges the risk in question, while criminal negligence is when the accused “should have been aware” of the risk. 

That is, recklessness is more grievous than criminal negligence but not at the level of an intentional act. Frankly, it is challenging to differentiate between the two concepts. That is why many legislatures and courts use the terms interchangeably. 

Ultimately, there is no clear-cut difference between criminal negligence and recklessness. However, find out what the law says in whatever jurisdiction you find yourself before using the terms interchangeably. 

The Difference between Criminal and Civil Negligence

Civil negligence is an individual’s failure to exhibit reasonable or logical care in their actions. In contrast, criminal negligence is an egregious negligent act that can lead to death or severe bodily injury. Hence, criminal negligence is more damning than civil negligence. 

An example of civil negligence is when a driver makes an illegal left turn and hits a pedestrian. Though the pedestrian may sustain injuries through this traffic violation, it cannot be regarded as criminal negligence because the unlawful action was not foreseeably risky. 

However, if the person were drag racing when they hit the pedestrian, they would probably be guilty of criminal negligence. Every reasonable individual understands that drag racing is risky, and the defendant intentionally disregarded the risk. 

Also, civil negligence can lead to monetary damages but cannot fetch the defendant jail time. On the other hand, criminal carelessness can lead to prison or jail time. Further, the victim or plaintiff files a lawsuit against a defendant in a civil case. However, a government prosecutor files criminal charges against the defendant in a criminal negligence case. 

Defenses to Criminal Negligence

Suppose you are a defendant in a case of criminal negligence. In that case, you may claim that you did not rise to the level of intentionally disregarding a severe risk of harm or that the act was unintentional. A jury often decides on a criminal negligence case by considering if the evidence establishes the charges. 

You Need a Lawyer

“You cannot handle a case of criminal negligence alone; you need a reputable and experienced attorney that will help you answer all questions expertly” says Ryan McPhie of Grand Canyon Law Group. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows everything about acts of recklessness or criminal negligence. 

The essence of hiring a lawyer is to interpret the position of the law to you on the issue at hand and defend your rights.

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