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6 Questions About Criminal Negligence

Criminal Negligence

What is criminal negligence?

Criminal negligence is a far more serious form of negligence that usually involves the death of another individual. The defendant has failed to perceive the serious nature of his or her actions and instead precipitated a gross violation of the standard of care expected on an individual.

How is this more serious than other forms of negligence?

Criminal negligence, as the name implies is not a civil lawsuit but rather a criminal matter as it violates the standard of care expected by the community. Therefore, all that is needed for a conviction is proof off the accused party’s culpability in the death of the other party and that the defendant was willfully unaware of his or her actions and its potential to hurt others.

What are types of criminal negligence?

The two most common forms of criminal negligence are criminally negligent homicide and negligent endangerment of a child. Criminally negligent homicide is willful and wanton conduct that causes the death of another. The neglect of a child is the failure to provide for the needs of the child and dereliction of one’s duties as a parent or caretaker. The implication in a child neglect case is that the parents lacked the mental, physical and emotional capacity to care for the child, rather than the willful abuse of the child.

Is there room to hold individuals to a lower “reasonable person standard?”

As the “reasonable person” standard is an objective benchmark by which an individual is judged, only in cases involving mental and physical disabilities can there be room for reinterpretation. If the individual, due to disability cannot foresee how his or her actions will lead to serious consequences and a breach of the standard of care, then that case may be open to reinterpretation. There is still the expectation that the individual will exercise due diligence about his or her limitations before engaging in dangerous activity. In the case of mental disability, the court may consider if the individual’s mental state has made them unaware to perceive how his or her actions may have lead to negligence that eventually caused serious harm.

Is criminal negligence always a criminal matter?

In cases involving insanity, some jurisdictions maintain separate standards that result in alternative or lesser punishments to those that could not hope to maintain a normal “reasonable person” standard. The liability for this person is lowered if there is the expectation that the individual lacks the ability to function as a “normal person.” However, others with fully developed mental capacities, regardless of physical disabilities are held to the same standard as able bodied individuals.

Under what circumstances could a person avoid legal liability?

If it is found that the defendant took all adequate precautions in the accidental death of another, then that person may avoid liability. For instance, if a skydiver’s parachute fails to deploy, causing the death of that individual, the organizer may avoid liability if it is proven, beyond reasonable doubt that, that the parachutes were inspected, adequate lessons were given and the parachute was aware of the inherent risks of this activity. Criminal responsibility could stem from a lack of proper preparation or safety precautions.

Sources: NY Courts -

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