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What is Culpable Negligence?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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Culpable negligence is an offense that stems from failure to exercise the caution of a reasonable person. An individual may be accused of this offense if she engages in reckless actions that could harm others. An individual may also be accused of this offense if she fails to do something and as a result it puts others at risk. Most forms of negligence are civil matters, but in this instance, the offense is so extremely reckless that it is a crime, explaining why this offense is also commonly referred to as criminal negligence.

To be found guilty of many crimes, it must be shown that a person had the intent to commit the violation. Culpable negligence is not one of them. Accidents happen, and people make careless mistakes all of the time. These matters are usually handled civilly by forcing the guilty parties to pay damages to those who are injured. Culpable negligence arises when an accident or mistake is so reckless that the lack of caution or the disregard for consequences is punished with a criminal penalty.

Culpable negligence is a crime that is generally based on the reasonable person standard. This means that when a potentially criminal act is committed, the court will consider whether a reasonable person would have acted in the same manner. If the answer is yes, then most likely the accused will be found not guilty.

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For example, a case may involve an individual who accidentally shoots someone. The shooting may have occurred when the gun owner was trying to dislodge a jammed bullet. He may have had the barrel aimed toward a household member and may have fired the weapon without the intention of doing so. It is likely to be found that most people would have exercised a higher degree of caution by making sure that the gun was aimed away from everyone in the room.

It is important to note that a person does not have to get injured for the accused to be convicted of culpable negligence. To be found guilty, a person merely has to create a risk of harm for another individual. In some jurisdictions, if a victim is actually injured, the crime intensifies and the punishment may be harsher. The manner in which culpable negligence is handled depends on the jurisdiction. In some instances, this crime may be a misdemeanor, and in others it may be a felony.

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irontoenail
Post 3

@browncoat - To me, there are some things that are unforgivable. The whole purpose of the trial is to find out whether or not the person acted by the definition of criminal negligence. At what point do you draw the line? Leaving a young child in a tub by themselves, no matter how short the time, seems like a clearly cut, evil act to me.

On the other hand, this is not always so clearly defined, which is why we need the trial.

There have been times when I think they've been too harsh as well. Sometimes there are two choices and it's not immediately obvious which one is the right one.

But I don't feel sorry for people who could clearly see the right thing to do and did the wrong thing anyway. To me, culpable negligence is basically manslaughter and should be treated like that.

browncoat
Post 2

@pastanaga - The one that seems to happen a lot is when a parent leaves a child alone in the bath for a few minutes, to answer the phone or something, and when they get back the child has drowned.

It seems like such a stark, horrible thing, to lose your son or daughter over just a few minutes of negligence.

But, at the same time, I think that a trial can serve another purpose, because it reminds everyone how much difference those minutes can make.

pastanaga
Post 1

I always find these kinds of cases so tragic, particularly because they often involve the harm or death of a child.

If a parent has done something that results in the death of their child, I almost feel like that, in itself, is enough to punish them. How could putting them in prison possibly do anything to punish them worse than they would already be punishing themselves?

But, at the same time, I'm sure that there are parents who just don't care and you can't make laws for one person that don't apply to another. I can definitely see the point of making some negligence a criminal act, but at the same time my heart breaks for some of the people who learn this the hard way.

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