Generally, when the word “negligence” is used in the law, it’s referring to some type of carelessness that caused one or more people to be injured or suffer other harm. It’s often used when discussing the actions (or lack of action) that led up to a car accident or some type of premises liability, like a slippery walkway or broken step.
Victims can seek compensation in civil court from the at-fault party, but there are typically no criminal charges involved. So, when does negligence become a crime?
Often, the alleged action needs to be not just reckless, but dangerously reckless. For example, Pennsylvania has a statute titled “recklessly endangering another person.” A person can be charged with a misdemeanor “if he recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
Involuntary manslaughter is a charge that can be brought when criminal negligence results in someone’s death. If a person engaged in conduct that they knew or should have known endangered others’ lives – even though that wasn’t their intention — they can be charged with involuntary manslaughter. This could encompass anything from driving drunk to providing someone with illegal drugs to carelessly using a firearm or explosives and more.
If you’ve been charged with any type of criminal negligence – particularly if someone was seriously injured or killed as a result, it’s crucial that you take the matter seriously. A conviction can change the trajectory of your life. Don’t try to navigate Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system alone.