In re William G
In In re William G., 192 Ariz. 208, 963 P.2d 287 (App. 1998), a juvenile was riding a shopping cart in a busy parking lot and hit a parked vehicle.
The juvenile was charged with criminal damage under A.R.S. 13-1602, which requires proof that a person "recklessly defaces or damages property of another."
On appeal, the juvenile asserted that the evidence was insufficient to prove the culpable mental state of criminal recklessness.
In an effort to "demarcate the border between criminal recklessness and civil negligence" and determine whether the legislature intended "to criminalize acts or omissions amounting to no more than civil negligence," this court considered the operative terms "consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk" and "gross deviation from the applicable standard of conduct." Id. at 212, 963 P.2d at 291.
In analyzing the phrase "substantial and unjustifiable risk", the Court relied on Williams v. Wise, 106 Ariz. 335, 341, 476 P.2d 145, 151 (1970), which distinguished civil negligence from quasi-criminal gross negligence or reckless misconduct based on a difference in "degree of the risk" and concluded that the "difference of degree is so marked as to amount substantially to a difference in kind." Id.
The Court commented that "'a very substantial deviation' [from the standard of care] is essential to criminal guilt," id. at 211, 963 P.2d at 291, and that "defining a substantial risk as one 'different in kind' from the merely unreasonable risk sufficient for civil negligence best serves the purpose of circumscribing reckless in such a manner that a fact-finder will not be misled into criminalizing conduct which is only civilly liable." In re William G., 192 Ariz. at 214, 963 P.2d at 293
The William G. court also defined the phrase "gross deviation from the standard of conduct." Relying on the plain and ordinary meaning of the terms, the court determined it referred to conduct which was "flagrant and extreme," "outrageous, heinous [and] grievous." Id. at 214-15, 963 P.2d at 293-94.
Based upon these definitions, the majority of the court concluded that no reasonable person could find that the juvenile's actions there rose to the level of criminal conduct. Although riding the shopping cart created an unreasonable risk of damage to parked cars, it did not create a substantial and unjustifiable risk of which the juvenile was aware and consciously disregarded. Id. at 214, 963 P.2d at 293.
Also, while the juvenile's conduct was a deviation from the standard of care applicable to a civil negligence action, it was not extreme, outrageous, heinous or grievous so as to constitute a gross deviation from the relevant standard of conduct. Id. at 215, 963 P.2d at 294.