The Role of Negligence in Criminal Cases: A Comprehensive Guide
Negligence and gross negligence are legal concepts commonly used in civil law, such as personal injury cases. However, these concepts also play a significant role in criminal cases, particularly in Nevada.
This article will clarify the differences between negligence and gross negligence in criminal cases, explore relevant Nevada statutes and case examples, and outline the penalties and punishments associated with such offenses. We will also provide guidance on what to do if you find yourself accused of criminal negligence or gross negligence in Nevada.
If you, or someone you know, is facing criminal negligent charges or any other crimes, reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Defenders is a Las Vegas-based criminal defense firm and has been serving Nevada residents for many years. Our attorneys understand the complexities of Nevada’s criminal laws and they will fight to get the best outcome for your case.
Call us today at (702) 333-3333 for a free consultation.
Negligence vs. Gross Negligence: Understanding the Difference
NRS 192.018 defines negligence (and other variations such as neglect, negligent, negligently) as a “want of such attention to the nature or probable consequences of an act or omission as an ordinarily prudent person usually exercises in his or her own business.”
In the context of criminal law, negligence can be looked at as as a person’s failure to exercise the appropriate care that a reasonable person would in the same situation. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is a more severe form of negligence. It involves a conscious and voluntary disregard for the need to exercise reasonable care in a situation where such care is required, thus resulting in a high likelihood of harm to others.
The critical difference between these two legal concepts lies in the degree of carelessness involved. While negligence is typically characterized by simple carelessness or a failure to act with due diligence, gross negligence implies a higher level of recklessness and a clear deviation from what a reasonable person would do in the same situation.
The Role of Negligence in Nevada Criminal Law
Nevada law does not have a specific crime of negligence or gross negligence. However, these concepts are used in several statutes that detail the specific offenses or crimes. Below are the most common examples where negligence and/or gross negligence might come into play.
- NRS 202.595: Reckless endangerment: This statute defines reckless endangerment as a person’s willful disregard for the safety of others or property, thus placing others at substantial risk of physical harm. Reckless endangerment is a criminal offense that law enforcement officers use in situations with a large crowd or when a person’s behavior poses a risk of harm to another person. Since the police use subjective judgment in determining reckless endangerment, it is crucial to seek representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney if faced with this charge.
- NRS 200.070: Involuntary manslaughter: Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing that results from the commission of an unlawful act or a negligent act, not amounting to a felony, or a lawful act completed in an illegal manner. Examples include mislabeling a “poison” or controlled substance which is consumed by a child and dies, killing someone with a loaded gun like in the case of Alec Baldwin, and leaving a child in a hot car.
- NRS 200.508: Child Abuse & Endangerment: Under this statute, it is illegal to physically or mentally abuse a child (under 18 years of), neglect a child, leaving in dangerous situations, or exposing the child to an environment that may endanger his/her health. This can include physical abuse, sexual exploitation, abandonment and other acts of negligence.
To better understand these legal concepts, consider the following hypothetical case studies:
- Example 1: Jim, a Nevada resident, is driving well above the speed limit in a residential neighborhood. Despite seeing a stop sign and a group of children playing in the street, Jim fails to slow down and hits one of the children. In this situation, Jim’s actions could be seen as gross negligence since he consciously disregarded the speed limit and failed to take reasonable measures that could have prevented harm from occurring.
- Example 2: Sarah, a tourist in Nevada, is rushing to catch a flight and accidentally leaves a pot of boiling water unattended on the stove in her Airbnb. The pot boils over and causes a fire, leading to the death of a neighbor. Here, Sarah’s failure to exercise reasonable care could be seen as negligence, as her actions were careless, albeit unintentional.
It is important to understand that any criminal charge in Nevada carries serious consequences. If you are facing such charges, don’t hesitate to contact our firm for a free case evaluation.
Penalties and Punishments for Negligence-Related Crimes in Nevada
The penalties and punishments for crimes involving criminal negligence vary depending on the offense as well as its severity. Generally, however, someone found guilty of criminal negligence in Nevada can face jail time, fines, restitution payments to victims, community service and even probation.
- Misdemeanor convictions for criminal negligence can result in jail time of up to six months, a fine of not more than $1,000, and/or community service.
- Gross misdemeanors and negligence that don’t cause substantial bodily harm can be penalized with incarceration for less than one year and/or fines of up to $2,000.
- Felony convictions and negligence resulting in injury or death are punishable by prison terms of up to 20 years, fines of up to $10,000, and restitution to victims.
For example, reckless endangerment can either result in a gross misdemeanor or a category C felony, while vehicular manslaughter is only a misdemeanor.
Key Differences of Negligence in Civil Law and Criminal Law
In civil law, the burden of proof is on the victim, meaning they must show that negligence took place in order to recover damages. This means that even a small degree of recklessness may be enough to establish liability.
In criminal law, however, the burden of proof is higher and requires prosecutors to demonstrate that gross negligence occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that a jury must be convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant acted recklessly or with gross negligence in order to convict them of the charged offense.
The penalties associated with criminal cases are much harsher than those issued in civil cases, and can result in jail time, fines, probation, community service and other forms of punishment.
Ultimately, negligence is a serious matter that can result in costly consequences. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges for negligent behavior, contact our office today to discuss your case and legal options. We’ll provide experienced counsel and work hard to protect your rights every step of the way.
Defenses to a Criminal Negligent Charge
In cases, it may be possible to challenge the charge of criminal negligence. A person can defend an act of criminal negligence by arguing that it was either an accident or that it did not involve consciously ignoring a serious risk of harm. The following are examples of potential defenses that may be used in a criminal case:
- It was an accident: An accident is an event that occurs without any intention to cause harm. If a defendant can demonstrate that their actions were unintentional, this could be used as a defense against criminal negligence.
- Reasonable care was taken: Negligence requires that a person failed to show reasonable care in their actions. If the defendant can demonstrate that they exercised reasonable care in their conduct, they may be able to challenge the charge of criminal negligence.
- No conscious disregard for risk: Negligence also requires that a person was aware of the risk involved in their actions and consciously disregarded it. A defendant can defend themselves by arguing that they were unaware of the risk or that there was no conscious disregard for the risk involved.
Facing Criminal Charges? Hire The Defenders
If you’re facing criminal negligence charges in Nevada, our experienced attorneys at The Defenders are here to provide strategic legal defense. Hiring a firm who understands and has the knowledge of law and how court systems function is very essential if you have been charged with a crime. Our criminal defense lawyer will apply their legal skills and years of courtroom experience to the specifics of your case.
Our team will develop a strong defense strategy and work hard to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact us today for a free consultation.