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Culpable Negligence

Culpable Negligence

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Definition of Culpable Negligence

As defined under Washington DC case law and the Washington DC Standard Jury Instructions, “Culpable Negligence” is a course of conduct showing reckless disregard for human life, or for the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or such an entire want of care as to raise a presumption of conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness, recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard for the safety and welfare of others.

Under Section 784.05, Washington DC Statutes, the crime of Culpable Negligence consists of two elements: (1) the accused exposed a person to personal injury or inflicted personal injury on that person, and (2) the accused did so with “culpable negligence.” If the incident of Culpable Negligence involves a child gaining access to firearms (a third degree felony), it must also be shown that the accused stored or left the loaded firearm within the reach or easy access of the minor.

Penalties for Culpable Negligence

Under Washington DC law, Culpable Negligence may be classified as second degree misdemeanor (punishable by up to sixty days in jail), a first degree misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail), or a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Where the culpable acts of the accused merely “expose” another to a danger without injury, the offense is a second degree misdemeanor. Where the accused’s actions actually inflict personal injury, it is a first degree misdemeanor. Where the accused stores or leaves firearms within easy reach of child, and the child uses the firearm to inflict injury or death upon himself or herself or any other person, then culpable negligence will be classified as third degree felony.

Culpable Negligence vs. Civil Negligence

Culpable negligence differs from conventional negligence (as used in Washington DC civil cases) in the degree of disregard a person must exhibit for the safety, rights, or welfare of others. In the civil context, negligence is established merely by showing a breach of duty to exercise reasonable care on behalf of others. If a person fails to act reasonably in regard to a duty they have towards others, then civil liability may be imposed.

With culpable negligence, the accused must not only act unreasonably with respect to his or her duty, but he or she must also exhibit gross recklessness, or wanton disregard for others.

Constitutionality Washington DC’s Culpable Negligence Statute

Although the term “culpable negligence” is highly subjective and poorly defined, the Washington DC Statute has survived multiple constitutional challenges brought on vagueness grounds. See Sieniarecki v. State, 756 So. 2d 68 (Fla. 2000); State v. Greene, 348 So. 2d 3 (Fla. 1977).

Defenses to Culpable Negligence

In Washington DC, there are many factual and legal defenses available to contest a charge of culpable negligence. If you have been accused, contact the Washington DC criminal attorneys At Cohen Law, P.A. for a free consultation.