Criminal Negligence Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Criminal Negligence, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Criminal Negligence?

The creation of a circumstance that could reasonably be considered life-threatening or dangerous.

History and Meaning of Criminal Negligence

Criminal Negligence refers to an action in which an individual fails to take reasonable care and this failure causes harm or risk to someone else's life or property. The act of criminal negligence, however, is not limited to mere carelessness. The offender must have been aware, or should have been aware, that their actions could cause harm or death to others but still failed to act with appropriate caution. Criminal negligence is often considered a felony, and the penalties for criminal negligence could range from probation to imprisonment depending on the severity of the crime.

The concept of criminal negligence has been in existence for centuries, but its legal usage started in the mid-to-late 19th century. Before the introduction of criminal negligence laws, individuals could only be prosecuted for intentional crimes, and unintentional or careless mistakes would go unpunished. As the law evolved, criminal negligence laws were introduced to hold individuals accountable for their actions or inactions that caused harm or threatened the life of others.

Examples of Criminal Negligence

  1. If a person is driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes an accident that results in injuries, they could be charged with criminal negligence.

  2. If a construction company fails to ensure the safety of the workers by not providing proper safety equipment, and a worker falls from a height and dies, the company could be charged with criminal negligence.

  3. If a daycare worker leaves a child unsupervised, and the child is injured while playing, the daycare worker may be charged with criminal negligence.

Legal Terms Similar to Criminal Negligence

  1. Manslaughter: Unlawfully killing another person without premeditation.

  2. Recklessness: The disregard for the consequences of one's actions, which can result in harm or death to oneself or others.

  3. Gross Negligence: A reckless disregard for human life or property.