In United States law, there are two types of negligence – civil negligence and criminal negligence. Civil negligence is when an individual sustains injuries because of the reckless or carelessness of another party. Typically, a person is deemed negligent in civil court when their actions or behavior are less reasonable than what an average person’s actions or behavior would under similar circumstances.
Criminal negligence is much more serious. In order to be found guilty of criminal negligence, there must have been a deep departure of the actions or behavior of the way an average person would have reacted. There must also be a significant degree of responsibility on the part of the individual being prosecuted.
In order for an individual to be prosecuted for criminal negligence, it must be shown that he or she had a legal duty to act. If there was not a legal duty, then there was no criminal negligence. Take a car accident, for example. The majority of crashes are caused by inattention, error in judgment, or careless on the part of the at-fault driver. These are not acts that would qualify as criminal negligence.
In order to find an individual guilty of criminal negligence, the beyond a reasonable doubt standard must be proven by the prosecution. This means that the jury agrees that the evidence shows that there is no other explanation other than the defendant is guilty of criminally negligent.
Defenses to Charges of Criminal Negligence
When a person is charged with criminal negligence, their criminal defense attorney will evaluate the case and determine what type of defense they will argue against the prosecutor based on the circumstances and evidence in the case. The following are some of the major defenses that an attorney may argue on their client’s behalf:
No Legal Duty: If the defendant had no legal duty of care to the victim to either provide something or not do something, they cannot be held criminally negligent.
Accident or Error: If the defendant proves that their action was the result of an error on their part or an accident, they may not be found criminally negligent.
Reasonable Care: If the defendant proves they exercised reasonable care trying to avoid injuring the victim, they may not be found criminally negligent.
Involuntary Intoxication: If the defendant can prove they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs – but it was without their knowledge – they may not be found criminally negligent.
Let a Criminal Defense Attorney Protect Your Rights
If you have are facing charges of criminal negligence, you should consider seeking the counsel of a skilled lawyer who is familiar with criminal defense in DC to fight for your rights and defend you against these charges.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C. for their knowledge about criminal defense and negligence.