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What Is a Criminally Negligent Homicide?

What Is a Criminally Negligent Homicide?

Criminally negligent homicide is a Class A misdemeanor in Alabama, which means it can result in the most severe penalties a misdemeanor can legally carry. This crime is defined as when an individual causes the death of another person due to criminal negligence rather than recklessness or malicious intent. In this blog post, we will explain what criminally negligent homicide is and provide information on the Alabama statutes regarding how this crime is punishable. We will also discuss the difference between “criminal negligence” and “recklessness”, as they are quite similar and easily confused.

What is Criminally Negligent Homicide in Alabama?

According to Ala. Code 1975, § 13A-6-4, a person can be charged with criminally negligent homicide if they are accused of killing another person by criminal negligence.

What Is Criminal Negligence?

A person acts with criminal negligence when he/she fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. A court or jury may consider statutes or ordinances regulating the defendant's conduct as bearing upon the question of criminal negligence.

The charge of criminally negligent homicide is only proper where the victim’s death was caused by the defendant’s inadvertent creation and subsequent disregard of a risk of harm of which he/she should have been aware, but of which, in fact, he/she was not aware. To warrant the bringing of such a charge there must be some evidence that the defendant was not aware of the risk he/she was creating.

To convict, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of these elements:

  1. A person is deceased.

  2. The defendant caused the death of the deceased person.

  3. In committing the act which caused the death, the defendant acted with criminal negligence.

Ala. Code 1975, § 13A-6-4 states that if the State's evidence has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of these elements of criminally negligent homicide, then the defendant can be convicted of criminally negligent homicide.

Criminal Negligence vs. Recklessness

Two very similar culpable mental states are criminal negligence and recklessness. Because they are so similar, the majority of actions which could constitute criminally negligent homicide could also be considered reckless manslaughter in slightly different circumstances. Therefore, understanding the intricacies which differentiate criminal negligence from recklessness is extremely important.

A common denominator in both is that in each instance the underlying conduct must involve a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” that a result or circumstance described in the penal statute will occur or exists. The reckless offender is aware of the risk and “consciously disregards” it. On the other hand, the criminally negligent offender is not aware of the risk created (“fails to perceive”) and, therefore, cannot be guilty of consciously disregarding it. Thus, his culpability, though less than that of the reckless offender, is greater than that required for ordinary tort, or civil, negligence.

Penalties for Criminally Negligent Homicide

In Alabama, criminally negligent homicide is a Class A misdemeanor. As such, an individual convicted of this crime can be sentenced to up to 1 year in the county jail, and fined up to $6,000. However, there are exceptions to this range of punishment, as outlined below.

Although criminally negligent homicide is generally considered a Class A misdemeanor, Alabama law creates an exception in cases in which the criminally negligent homicide is caused by the driver or operator of a vehicle or marine vessel in violation of Alabama DUI laws. In these cases, criminally negligent homicide is a Class C felony, which means the sentence must be between 1-10 years imprisonment and can include a monetary fine up to $15,000.

Oftentimes when a defendant is charged with manslaughter or murder, they will attempt to negotiate a plea deal which results in a conviction of criminally negligent homicide instead to avoid a felony conviction on their record and significantly decrease the potential amount of time they could be incarcerated.

Providing Aggressive Legal Defense in Alabama

At Revill Law Firm we are committed to providing you with the dedicated representation you need. Our Alabama criminal attorneys have vast experience representing clients charged with criminally negligent homicide and we are prepared to advocate for your rights and provide you with the support you need.

For a free case consultation, call our Alabama defense firm now at 205.928.6544

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