Not every crime is committed with the intent to cause harm. Sometimes, crimes occur because of someone’s carelessness. However, people need to be held accountable for their actions, even if they did not necessarily intend to cause any harm. Criminal negligence can occur when someone is not paying attention to the consequences of their actions. Keep reading to learn about the penalties for criminal negligence charges from our Utah criminal defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden.
The Legal Standard of “Criminal Negligence” in Utah
Criminal negligence is itself not a crime. Instead, the concept of criminal negligence is a level of criminal culpability. There are four different levels of criminal culpability, often referred to as levels of criminal intent. These levels of culpability are acting intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently. When a defendant acts intentionally or knowingly, they are aware of the harm their actions will cause and they might actually intend for that harm to happen. When a defendant acts recklessly, they disregard a substantial risk that an ordinary person would not ignore.
Criminal negligence is the lowest level of criminal culpability. It is very similar to recklessness because it also involves a defendant acting in the face of an unjustifiable risk. However, criminal negligence is different because the person acting is not aware of the risk. The risk must be so severe and significant that the defendant should have known about it. Their failure to understand the risk is what makes their actions criminal. Criminal negligence is the lowest level of culpability and is generally associated with lesser punishments.
Crimes That Require Criminal Negligence in Utah
Multiple criminal offenses require criminal negligence for a defendant to be convicted. Many of these crimes are lesser or more minor versions of more serious offenses. Because criminal negligence is a lesser level of criminal culpability, these charges tend to carry less severe punishments.
One such example of a crime requiring criminal negligence is child abuse. Child abuse is an incredibly serious charge that often meets with a lot of public backlash and outrage. However, child abuse resulting from criminal negligence is a lesser offense and is generally charged as a misdemeanor. When child abuse results in bodily harm due to criminal negligence, it will be charged as a class C misdemeanor. If the bodily harm is more serious, it can be charged as a class A misdemeanor.
This may seem strange considering how grave child abuse can be, but remember that criminal negligence does not require purposeful intent. Child abuse resulting from criminal negligence is unintentional on the part of the defendant.
Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult
Much like child abuse, the abuse or exploitation of vulnerable adults can also result from criminal negligence. Vulnerable adults are either elderly or have mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from fully taking care of themselves. They require other people to help care for them, thus placing them in a vulnerable position. Sometimes, these adults fall victim to abusive caregivers or other people who cause them harm. However, the harm caused to a vulnerable adult could be the result of criminal negligence.
Suppose the vulnerable adult is placed in a situation where serious physical injury or death is a likely outcome, and that situation is a result of the defendant’s criminal negligence. In that case, that defendant can be charged with a class A misdemeanor. Under any other circumstances that may be less dangerous but still abusive, the defendant can be charged with a class C misdemeanor if criminally negligent.
Negligent homicide is a form of criminal homicide that occurs under negligent circumstances. It occurs if the defendant, while acting with criminal negligence, caused the death of someone else. This offense may be charged as a class A misdemeanor.
A common example of negligent homicide is sometimes called vehicular homicide. Car accidents happen all the time and, unfortunately, people sometimes do not survive. If a driver caused another person’s death while behind the wheel, this charge could apply.
Penalties for Criminal Negligence Crimes in Utah
The penalties for crimes involving criminal negligence are relatively minor compared to their serious nature. A person who commits a crime of criminal negligence did so unintentionally. There is often no malice behind their actions. These defendants are usually not considered dangerous people, but people who made a very terrible mistake. However, even if they did not intend to commit the crime, they still have to be held accountable.
Most often, criminal negligence crimes are charged as misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are classified as either class A, B, or C misdemeanors.
- Class A misdemeanors may be punished by a jail term of no longer than 364 days.
- Class B misdemeanors can be punished by no more than 6 months in jail.
- Class C misdemeanors may be penalized by a jail sentence of no more than 90 days.
Using Criminal Negligence to Negotiate Plea Agreements in Utah
Criminal negligence can often be used in plea agreement negotiations with prosecutors. A plea agreement is where the prosecutor agrees to downgrade your charges or recommend a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea from the defendant. Because the penalties for criminal negligence charges are already minor, it may be possible to negotiate a sentence that does not involve jail time.
For example, we may be able to negotiate for a probation sentence. On probation, you would serve your sentence from home while complying with the terms and conditions of probation. This may include completing educational courses or treatment, community service hours, and regularly checking in with a probation officer, among other things.
Get in Touch with Our Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys for Criminal Negligence Charges
Crimes of criminal negligence are nothing to joke about. In many cases, victims are seriously hurt and courts may not be sympathetic when they think a defendant should have known better. If you have been charged with a form of criminal negligence, contact our Ogden criminal defense lawyers for help. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 to schedule a free consultation today.