The term “negligence” is one that is used regularly in the field of law and one that many of us are familiar with. But we are often asked, “when does a defendant become guilty of culpable negligence?”
Culpable negligence goes further than the simple failure to exercise appropriate care for others. It is defined as a complete disregard for the safety of others by acting recklessly and without reasonable caution. It may involve a person consciously engaging in an act or following a course of action that the person knew, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause serious bodily harm or wrongful death.
In the State of Florida, culpable negligence is the highest form of negligence and punishable under Florida Statute 784.05. It is classed as a second or first-degree misdemeanor, depending on whether any injuries were sustained because of the crime. A defendant may even face felony charges if they caused serious injury or the wrongful death of another person.
If you have been accused of culpable negligence and are facing misdemeanor or even felony charges for wrongful death in Sarasota, Florida, contact The Law Place today for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer. With 75 years of combined experience, you need look no further to find the law firm to take on your case. Call our Sarasota office at (941) 444-4444.
The Purpose of Florida’s Culpable Negligence Statute
According to the Florida Supreme Court, the purpose of Florida Statute 784.05 on culpable negligence is to punish behavior that causes an “unreasonably great risk of harm to others.” Culpable negligence is defined by the Florida Supreme Court as “conduct showing reckless disregard for human life, or for the safety of other persons, or conduct showing an entire lack of care which raises a presumption of indifference to the consequences.”
For a free legal consultation with a culpable negligence lawyer serving Sarasota, call 941-444-4444
Duty of Care in a Sarasota Culpable Negligence Case
A key element in any culpable negligence case is duty of care. In Florida and the United States as a whole, every person has a duty to protect others from harm. The duty of care can also be referred to as legal responsibility or liability, as if someone has a duty towards you and fails in this duty, they are legally liable for any injuries or wrongful death that occurs as a result. In the case of culpable negligence, the defendant will have acted carelessly or recklessly despite the foreseeable risks. Defendants cannot claim ignorance because, under Florida law, a person should either know or should know that their actions will increase the risk of harm to others.
It sounds like a simple concept, but it is actually a very complex one, which is why the support of a criminal defense attorney in Sarasota is so crucial.
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The Penalties Associated With Culpable Negligence Charges in Sarasota, Florida
Second Degree Misdemeanor Charges
If a person suffers personal injury because of the culpable negligence of another person, then they can face second-degree misdemeanor charges. Second-degree misdemeanor culpable negligence charges are punishable by a fine of $500 and up to 60 days of imprisonment.
First-Degree Misdemeanor Charges
If the defendant inflicts actual personal injury on another person by way of culpable negligence, they could face first-degree misdemeanor charges. First-degree misdemeanor culpable negligence charges are punishable by a fine of $1,000 and up to one year of imprisonment.
The crime of culpable negligence can be charged as a felony under some circumstances. For example, in cases where there has been child neglect leading to great bodily injury, defendants could face second-degree felony charges punishable by up to fifteen years in a Florida state prison, not to mention the long term consequences of being a convicted felon. If a culpable negligence offense results in wrongful death, defendants could face manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges.
It is in your best interest to avoid these charges. It is well-known that felony charges have serious implications for your future, but even misdemeanor charges can have serious consequences for you and your family. Only by seeking the support of a qualified attorney will you be able to successfully fight charges of culpable negligence.
Types of Culpable Negligence Crimes in Florida
In Sarasota and the State of Florida in general, examples where defendants may face charges of culpable negligence, include:
- The neglect of an elderly or disabled person– Those who are responsible for the safety and well-being of an elderly or disabled person, whether it be a relative, friend, or someone in their place of work, such as a retirement home, could face charges of culpable negligence if they are found to have willfully neglected a disabled adult or elderly person and in so doing caused them permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or serious bodily harm. In the State of Florida, the crime of neglect of a disabled or elderly person can be charged as a second-degree felony.
- Child neglect– Those who are responsible for the safety and well-being of a child, whether it be in the home, or someone in their place of work such as a childcare setting, could face charges of culpable negligence if they are found to have willfully neglected the child and in so doing caused them permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or serious bodily harm. In the State of Florida, the defendant can be charged with a second-degree felony for this crime.
- Leaving a firearm within reach of a child– If you have been accused of leaving a firearm within reach of a minor and this led to that firearm being used to inflict injury or death upon themself or another person, you could face third-degree felony charges.
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Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence
When a person engages in a course of action that results in the accidental killing of another person, they may be accused of manslaughter by culpable negligence and face second-degree felony charges under Florida Statute 782.07. These charges will be considered if it is shown that a defendant is guilty of showing reckless disregard for human life or for the safety of any person who is exposed to serious risk. They may have displayed complete indifference to the consequences of their actions, which shows recklessness, wantonness, and gross carelessness for the welfare of the public and their rights. Therefore, they will be seen to have intentionally violated these rights.
Just because you may not have had the intention to cause serious harm to others, your recklessness and negligence are enough to hold you accountable. There are many examples of crimes that may result in charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence, but motor vehicle accidents (vehicle homicide) are one of the most common.
- Fleeing from law enforcement – If a defendant lost control of their vehicle whilst fleeing to elude law enforcement and caused the wrongful death of another person.
- Reckless driving – If a defendant lost control of their vehicle whilst driving recklessly and caused the wrongful death of another person.
- Driving under the influence – If a defendant lost control of their vehicle whilst driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other substances and caused a car accident resulting in the wrongful death of another person.
Any person who engages in reckless behavior such as this is putting passengers, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians at serious risk. When a driver unintentionally causes the death of another person, the state is required to establish culpability. The same rules apply for car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents. However, even in manslaughter cases, there are degrees of negligence, and a prosecutor must look at traffic offenses very closely before filing culpable negligence charges. We can seek to have your charges reduced to “simple negligence” under certain circumstances. Contact us today for free legal advice.
Defenses in a Sarasota Culpable Negligence Case
As previously mentioned, the prosecutor must look closely at the facts surrounding any case before filing culpable negligence charges. They must be able to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant acted negligently, and this can be a very difficult thing to prove.
A qualified criminal defense attorney can put forward a comprehensive defense on your behalf. These charges, no matter how serious, are not something that you should attempt to face alone due to the complexities of the law that surrounds them. Defenses used in these cases will vary greatly depending on the circumstances of each individual case, but some common defenses involve disputing that it is fair and just to impose liability on the defendant. Some examples include:
- State of mind –In some exceptional circumstances, it may be argued that you were not of a sound state of mind when the negligent act took place and, therefore, was not able to act as a “reasonable person would do under similar circumstances.”
- The relevance of the deceased’s conduct– If there is a valid argument to say that the deceased person was in some way partly responsible for their own death, this could be used as a defense against the charges you are facing.
- Foreseeable damage –Foreseeable risk is something that the prosecutor must show. Your defense attorney may be able to argue that the damage or injury caused was not foreseeable, and therefore you cannot be proven to be negligent for something you did not know may happen.
- No duty of care was owed –A critical element for the prosecutor in these cases is showing that the defendant actually owed a duty of care to the victim. If this cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then the defendant may not be found guilty.
To secure the best defense for your Sarasota culpable negligence case, call The Law Place today to speak to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.
The Burden of Proof in a Sarasota Culpable Negligence Case
A burden of proof is a standard that a prosecutor must establish to win the case. In Florida, there are three burdens of proof, and depending on the circumstances of your crime, the prosecutor in your case will be required to meet one of the following standards:
- Beyond a reasonable doubt– This is considered the highest burden of proof in any criminal proceeding. When a defendant stands trial, the jury must assume that they are not guilty, and all accusations are false (known as the “presumption of evidence”). The prosecution must show the jury that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and this must be shown to the degree that there is an obvious conviction of guilt. An experienced criminal defense attorney will seek to find any doubt in your case and encourage the jury to question the accusation that you acted negligently.
- The preponderance of the evidence-This term refers to the argument that according to the evidence, the defendant is more likely to be guilty than not guilty. This is the lowest burden of proof and is often used in civil cases.
- Clear and convincing evidence– This means a firm conviction or belief that an act of negligence has occurred. The accuser must prove to the jury that according to the evidence presented, it is significantly more than likely that their version of events is true over the version put forward by the defendant. This standard is also often used in civil cases.
The complexities of Florida law can be difficult to grasp. To enable you to put forward the best defense, you should seek legal advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Contact us today for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
How Soon Should You Hire an Attorney
If you are facing charges of culpable negligence and wrongful death in Sarasota, FL., the sooner you hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you, the better.
You have the right to ask for a lawyer before you speak to law enforcement or any other agencies regarding the alleged crime. Many defendants accidentally say the wrong thing to law enforcement when they are initially questioned because they are not thinking straight, and this could harm your defense later. Criminal investigators are trained to extract information from suspects and encourage them to implicate themselves unwittingly. A lawyer can prevent all the common missteps that occur in criminal investigations. If you have a lawyer on your side from the very beginning, you will avoid these legal issues and substantially improve your chances of having your charges reduced or even dropped. So, don’t hesitate, contact us today for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
Finding the Right Attorney for Culpable Negligence Crimes in Sarasota
If you have been accused of negligence in Sarasota, Florida, and are facing charges of a second-degree misdemeanor, a first-degree misdemeanor, or a third-degree felony, then contact an experienced attorney at The Law Place today.
The lawyers at our esteemed law firm have decades of experience between them and can offer an aggressive defense against any charges you may be facing. Our defense attorneys have experience in a wide range of criminal cases, and unlike other law practices in Sarasota, our attorneys work together, so you benefit from their combined expertise.