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Culpable Negligence

The word “negligence” often conjures up images of a slip-and-fall at a restaurant, or a parent leaving a young child unattended. In most cases, negligence is a matter of liability rather than a criminal offense. There are, however, instances when a person’s negligence is so egregious, that it can result in imprisonment.

What is Culpable Negligence?

Culpable Negligence is a type of negligence that occurs when a person acts in a manner that is so careless, it is seen as similar to having exposed another person to harm or caused an injury to another. As defined by the Florida Standard Jury Instructions, culpable negligence is “more than a failure to use ordinary care for others” and is instead “a course of conduct showing reckless disregard for human life” which can include “a conscious indifference to consequences”. Other words associated with culpable negligence include reckless or grossly careless.

Examples of culpable negligence might include a healthcare professional giving a patient a medication that they are allergic to; a teacher leaving a class unsupervised, resulting in a child getting hurt; a car driver injuring someone in an accident that occurred while the driver was texting – the list goes on, but the most infamous example of culpable negligence concerns firearms.

Punishments for Culpable Negligence

Culpable Negligence, as defined in section 784.05 of the Florida Statutes, ranges from a second degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. The punishment for this crime depends on the level of harm done, and the way in which the harm occurred.

  • Exposure to harm (s. 784.05(1))– A person who, through culpable negligence, exposes another person to personal injury commits a misdemeanor of the second degree. Punishable by up to 60 days in jail, 6 months probation, and a fine of $500.
  • Infliction of harm (s. 784.05(2)) – A person who, through culpable negligence, inflicts actual personal injury on another commits a misdemeanor of the first degree. Punishable by up to 12 months in jail, 12 months probation, and a fine of $1,000.
  • Firearms (s. 784.05(3)) – A person who, by storing or leaving a loaded firearm within the reach or easy access of a minor commits, if the minor obtains the firearm and uses it to inflict injury or death upon himself or another, a third degree felony. Punishable by up to 5 years in jail, 5 years probation, and a fine of $5,000.
Firearm Exceptions

Under the law, firearms are given extra attention, particularly when it comes to storing firearms around children. While the law does not require gun owners to store their firearms in any particular way, proper gun safety is encouraged through culpable negligence laws. Florida Statute 784.05(3) makes it a criminal offense if a minor is injured by a firearm when it is within ready reach or easily accessible to the minor.

There are, however, exceptions. Culpable negligence does not apply if the firearm was securely locked or in a reasonably secure location; if the minor obtains the firearm as a result of an unlawful entry by another; to injuries caused by target or sport shooting or hunting accidents; or to military and law enforcement officers if the minor obtains the firearm during or incidental to the performance of their official duties.

Proving Culpable Negligence

It is not a criminal offense to simply act in a manner that is grossly negligent. In order for negligent behavior to be criminal, it must either expose a victim to personal injury or inflict actual personal injury onto a person. In order to be found guilty, the State must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Defendant exposed a victim to personal injury, OR
  2. Defendant inflicted actual personal injury on a victim

AND

  1. Defendant did so through culpable negligence

While not every culpable negligence case will have this many variables, it is undoubtedly a complicated crime. If you or someone you know has been accused of culpable negligence, having an experienced attorney in your corner will make all the difference in understanding what you have been charged with, and how it will affect your life.

The Thompson Law Approach

Thompson Law is dedicated to providing our clients with legal service that is personable, accessible, and exceptional. By staying current with legal research and court rulings, we are able to craft a defense that is legally sound and tailored for your individual case. In addition to criminal defense, Attorney Matt Thompson handles personal injury cases, providing him with unique insight to culpable negligence accusations. With over 10 years of experience, you can be confident that Matt Thompson has the knowledge and expertise to diligently represent you or your loved one. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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