Culpable Negligence and Aggravated Manslaughter in Florida
In Florida, an unlawful killing that does not rise to the level of murder is considered manslaughter. This does not mean a manslaughter charge is something to be taken less seriously. To the contrary, in many cases a manslaughter charge–especially if it is considered “aggravated” manslaughter–is a felony of the first degree under Florida law. This means that a conviction carries a possible prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Florida Woman Convicted of Aggravated Manslaughter in Sleeping Death of Her Baby
One form of aggravated manslaughter in Florida is the unlawful killing of a child under the age of 18 by culpable negligence. The Florida statutes governing manslaughter do not actually explain what behavior constitutes “culpable negligence.” So it has been left to the courts to explain through case law. One common definition used in jury trials is as follows:
For negligence to be called culpable negligence, it must be gross and flagrant. The negligence must be committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
A recent decision from the Florida First District Court of Appeal, Taylor v. State, provides a real-world example. In this case, prosecutors charged the defendant with the aggravated manslaughter of her infant daughter. At trial, the state presented evidence that the defendant used methamphetamines before and after the birth of her child. A Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigator advised the defendant not to sleep in the same bed as the baby and informed her of other “unsafe sleep conditions” that could affect the baby’s breathing while asleep.
Nineteen days after the child’s birth, she died. The defendant reported the death to the police. An eyewitness told the police they had seen the defendant sleeping in the same bed as the baby just before her death. The police investigation further confirmed that the defendant had used methamphetamine that day. At trial, the medical examiner offered an expert opinion that the child died due to “unsafe sleep” conditions, but he could not offer a more specific cause.
After the prosecution finished presenting its case, the defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the state had failed to provide sufficient evidence of culpable negligence. The judge denied the motion. The jury subsequently convicted the defendant of aggravated manslaughter.
The First District upheld the conviction. The appellate court said the jury could have reasonably found there was “culpable negligence” due to the evidence suggesting the defendant shared the same bed with her child despite being expressly advised not to do so for safety reasons. Combined with the defendant’s admitted drug use, that was sufficient to support the conviction.
Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today
Florida prosecutors are always ready to throw the book at anyone suspected of harming a child. So if you are accused of manslaughter or another serious crime against a minor, you must be prepared to defend yourself in court. Your first step should be to speak with a qualified Orlando murder and manslaughter lawyer. Contact the Joshi Law Firm, P.A., today to schedule a free initial consultation.