Definition of Culpable Negligence

In Florida, the crime of “Culpable Negligence” is defined as a course of conduct “showing reckless disregard for human life, or for the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or . . . which shows wantonness or recklessness . . . [or] an indifference to the rights of others as is equivalent to an intentional violation of such rights.”

    • State v. Greene, 348 So. 2d 3, 4 (Fla. 1977); Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim) 8.9.

Proof at Trial

Under Section 784.05, Florida Statutes, 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.  See § 784.05(3).

Penalties for Culpable Negligence

Under Florida law, Culpable Negligence may be classified as second degree misdemeanor (punishable by up to 60 days in jail), a first degree misdemeanor (punishable by up to 1 year in jail), or a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 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 Florida 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 Florida’s Culpable Negligence Statute

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

Defenses to Culpable Negligence

In Florida, there are many factual and legal defenses available to contest a charge of culpable negligence. If you have been accused, contact Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation.