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What is Criminal Neglect?

Criminal NeglectOrdinary Neglect vs. Criminal Neglect

To understand what is criminal neglect you need to understand the difference between it and ordinary neglect. Let’s start with ordinary.

Ordinary Neglect

Ordinary neglect is the lower degree and is often associated with an honest mistake or a bad judgment call without intending to do any real harm. It can also be described as carelessness. In the eyes of the courts, neglect is primarily part of tort (civil) law that causes stress or harm to another person, and remedy may be sought by suing the negligent party for damages. In other words, ordinary neglect is a civil matter; not a criminal one. Here’s an example. A nurse checks on his patients before going on his lunch break. He over-stays his break by ten minutes. Upon returning he finds one of his patients unresponsive. Code Blue is called, but the emergency response teams efforts are unsuccessful, and the patient dies. Surely, that extra minutes the nurse was gone would or could have made a difference in the patient outcome. The nurse in this scenario did not mean to cause any harm, but he is still liable for his actions, and a wrongful death action can be filed in civil court. Another example might be a nurse administering the wrong medications to a patient without intending to do any harm to the patient.

Criminal Neglect

As you might have figured out by now, criminal neglect (also referred to as culpable neglect or reckless neglect) involves the ill intentions of the person doing the neglecting. This person neglects on purpose and doesn’t care about the harm caused to the victim. It shows a willful state of mind; a deliberate choice of action while being fully aware (or SHOULD be fully aware) of the consequences and POSSIBLE consequences of their actions. This type of offender has no regard for human life during the time the neglect occurs. And this makes criminal neglect as dangerous as someone holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger. It’s actually worse, in my opinion. At least if someone splatters your brains across the room, (s)he has decided to end life without causing the victim to suffer. With criminal neglect, however, the offender doesn’t care how much the victim suffers as a result. The fault rests with the offender being willing to take such risks.

The degree of culpability (criminality) is determined by applying a reasonable person standard. What would another individual, of same or similar background, do in the given situation? Sometimes the neglect is so extraordinary, it doesn’t take someone with a specified set of skills to see the incident warrants punishment. For a clear example of that, click here to read Justice for Keisha Marie White.


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