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What Is Criminal Negligence and How is One Convicted?

police car

Broadly defined, negligence is the failure to take due care. It is most often an issue in civil legal matters. For example, a grocery store that fails to clean up a spill in a timely manner could be deemed negligent and held liable for a resulting slip and fall accident. 

In some circumstances, negligence can rise to the level of a criminal offence. Indeed, criminal negligence is a very serious allegation. Here, our New Westminster criminal negligence defence lawyer explains the key things to know about criminal negligence charges in Canada. 

Understanding Canada’s Criminal Negligence Statute

A person can be charged with criminal negligence in British Columbia if their failure to take due care is extreme—meaning it is beyond the bounds of criminal negligence. Under Canada Criminal Code 219, criminal negligence is defined as: 

  • Showing “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons” while doing something or failing to do something that is a legal duty. 

Put another way, negligence becomes criminal when the negligence is so extreme that it goes beyond a mere breach of the duty of care and constitutes true disregard for the health and well-being of other people.

When is Criminal Negligence Charged in Canada?

Criminal negligence can technically be charged in a number of different circumstances. Most often, prosecutors pursue this charge in traffic cases. For example, a motorist engaged in extremely reckless driving could potentially be cited for criminal negligence. Similarly, a medical professional could face criminal negligence charges for putting a patient in extraordinary danger through misconduct. A parent who abandons a young child could also potentially face criminal negligence charges. 

You Have the Right to Defend Yourself Against a Criminally Negligent Charge 

In Canada, every person charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Criminal negligence charges are no exception. You have a right to raise a zealous defence of yourself. An experienced New Westminster, BC criminal defence lawyer can review the specific charges, allegations, and evidence to determine the proper course of action. With criminal negligence charges, it is important to remember that prosecutors must prove conduct in question constitutes “wanton or reckless disregard.” Proving civil negligence is not sufficient to prove criminal negligence. 

The Bottom Line: Criminal negligence is an extreme version of negligence in which a person breaches their duty of care in a manner that shows wanton or reckless disregard for the health and safety of others. To obtain a conviction for criminal negligence, prosecutors must first establish negligence. Additionally, they must prove that the negligent actions or inactions rise to the level of wanton or reckless disregard. 

Contact Our British Columbia Criminal Negligence Defence Lawyer

At N.J. Preovolos Law Corporation, our British Columbia criminal negligence lawyer fights aggressively to protect the rights of clients. If you were arrested for criminal negligence, we can help. Call us now or connect with us online to arrange your strictly confidential consultation. From our New Westminster office, we defend criminal negligence charges throughout the surrounding region, including in Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.