Criminal Liability for Culpable Negligence in Florida

In Florida, as is the case elsewhere, criminal defendants may be held liable for injuries caused to others as a result of their severe disregard for the safety of others — put another way, injuries that arise from their “culpable negligence.”  Culpable negligence is a crime that many are unfamiliar with.  It’s important to understand how culpable negligence works, however, as it can apply to situations where the defendant may not realize that criminal liability is possible.

Culpable Negligence and Criminal Liability — The Basics

Culpable negligence is governed by section 784.05 of the Florida Statutes, which dictates that criminal liability will attach when the evidence makes clear that the defendant has exposed the victim to a risk of injury (or has actually caused the victim to suffer injuries) as the result of their culpably negligent actions.  What actions qualify as culpable negligence?  Specifically, culpable negligence is conduct that so grossly and recklessly disregards the safety of others that it is as though he or she had intentionally caused the injuries at-issue.  In other words, the degree of disregard for the safety of others must be so great that a reasonable person would have foreseen the harm that would be caused to others as a result.

For example, suppose that you are drag racing on a busy commercial road in the evening when you lose control of your vehicle and collide with a pedestrian on the sidewalk.  Given the circumstances of the case, and the foreseeable risk posed to pedestrians in the “zone of danger” as a consequence of the drag racing antics, you could be held criminally liable pursuant to culpable negligence.  Though you may not have intended to hurt the pedestrian-victim, your actions demonstrated a reckless disregard for the safety of the victim (and others) in the area.

How Culpable Negligence Is Different Than Standard Negligence

Culpable negligence is not equivalent to standard, civil negligence.  In standard personal injury negligence lawsuits, the defendant may be held civilly liable (i.e., liable for damages pursuant to a civil lawsuit) for having violated the standard of care.  The level of disregard for others safety need not be reckless or wanton in nature — violation of the standard of care is enough to attach civil liability.  With culpable negligence, on the other hand, the defendant may be held criminally liable only if the evidence makes it clear that the level of disregard was reckless.

For example, suppose that you are driving and you are traveling at five miles per hour over the speed limit when you collide with the victim’s vehicle.  Given the circumstances, you may have committed civil negligence (by driving over the speed limit), but the degree of the violation is not severe enough to demonstrate reckless disregard for the safety of others.  As such, it is unlikely that you would be found criminally liable for the victim’s injuries.

Contact Our Team of Experienced Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

If you have been charged with the crime of culpable negligence by Florida authorities, or if you believe that your actions could expose you to criminal liability on the basis of culpable negligence, then it’s important to consult with an experienced team of attorneys, such as the Sarasota criminal defense attorneys here at the Fowler Law Group, for further guidance with your case.  Our attorneys have tried more than fifty criminal jury trials and have successfully defended clients in a range of Florida criminal litigation.

Call (941) 900-3100 today to get connected to one of our criminal defense attorneys.  We look forward to assisting you.

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