People v. Cabrera (2008) – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In People v. Cabrera (10 NY3d 370, 887 NE2d 1132, 858 NYS2d 74 [2008]), the Court of Appeals reiterated that criminal liability for negligent conduct requires more than the mere failure to perceive the risk. Instead, the defendant's conduct must show serious blameworthiness which caused the risk.

In Cabrera, the defendant's excessive speed when navigating a tricky downhill curve was described as certainly negligent and blameworthy, but it failed to rise to the level of criminal negligence.

The standard jury instruction for criminally negligent homicide now cites to Cabrera as its source for the language which discusses the distinction between civil and criminal negligence, as follows:

"You may notice from that definition that criminal negligence is not the same type of negligence you may be familiar with from a civil lawsuit seeking a money judgment. The carelessness required for criminal negligence is significantly more serious; it must be such that its seriousness would be apparent to anyone who shares the community's general sense of right and wrong." (CJI2d[NY] Penal Law § 125.10.)