What are the elements of negligence?
News of prosecutors dropping charges against three remaining officers on trial in the death of Freddie Gray shocked a beleaguered city grappling with serious allegations of police misconduct. Many Baltimore residents and observers around the country have been left wondering “Why did prosecutors drop the charges against police in the Freddie Gray case?”
To figure that out, the elements of the charges need to be examined. Prosecutors charged the six Baltimore police officers in the case with indictments ranging from misconduct in office to reckless endangerment and second-degree depraved heart murder.
The elements of the latter two charges differ from an area of the law known as negligence: careless actions resulting in foreseeable injury. Unfortunately for the Gray family, standards for criminal recklessness are much higher than those of civil negligence.
What is criminal recklessness?
Under Maryland law, criminal recklessness occurs when someone knowingly exposes another to risk of death or serious injury. To prove criminal recklessness, prosecutors needed to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that police were more than just careless when they placed Freddie Gray in the back of the police van but that the officers knew Gray was at risk for injury but did nothing to protect him.
- Maryland definition of criminal recklessness – conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another (§ 3-204. Reckless endangerment)
Criminal negligence, on the other hand, is defined as the failure to foresee the dangers a reasonable person would be aware of and take proper steps to avoid injury. Currently, the Maryland statute on criminal negligence only pertains to vehicular manslaughter deaths.
How hard is it to prove negligence in civil lawsuits?
Compared to the criminal standard of reasonable doubt, the standards to prove negligence in civil lawsuits is much lower. Under civil law, plaintiffs need only prove their injuries were more likely than not caused by the careless actions of another.
Civil tort lawsuits do not result in jail time. Instead, these claims allow plaintiffs to recover monetary damages for the harm suffered. Civil lawsuits can recover compensation for:
- Lost wages
- Hospital bills and medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
While money alone cannot undo the harm suffered to victims of negligence, the law none the less prescribes it as the relief to the victim. Only police and prosecutors can send someone to jail for recklessness and criminal negligence, a difficult task given the high standards required by Maryland criminal law.
Baltimore, Maryland personal injury lawyer
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury because of the carelessness of another, contact our office for a free legal consultation. The Baltimore personal injury lawyers of The Cochran Firm, D.C. serve clients throughout Baltimore, Maryland and the Washington, D.C. area.
Our office has recovered millions for our clients and will work tirelessly to maximize the compensation you and your family deserve. Call our office at 202-682-5800 during business hours or at 1-800-THE-FIRM (843-3476) to speak to someone 24 hours a day.[ratings]