What is Culpable Negligence?

June 9, 2022 Criminal Defense

When people think of neglect, one may imagine the example of a parent leaving their child unattended. It is usually considered more of a liability rather than a criminal offense. However, culpable negligence is considered when there was a failure to use ordinary care for others. This can be considered a criminal offense, especially when there is a dangerous or deadly outcome.

In order for the prosecution to prove culpable negligence, the following must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant exposed a victim to personal injury; or
  • The defendant inflicted actual personal injury on another individual; and
  • The defendant did so through culpable negligence.

Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence

Florida state laws allow the prosecution to consider manslaughter when the killing of another human being does not match the legal definition of murder. You can read the full description of murder vs. manslaughter in our informative blog post here.

When it comes to manslaughter, there is either voluntary or involuntary. Involuntary manslaughter is when the individual did not intend to kill another individual. The prosecutor establishes involuntary manslaughter by proving that the defendant acted with culpable negligence—or the showing the recklessness or lack of care for handling a weapon or firearm.

Florida Statute Section 784.05 defines the specific form of culpable negligence in which an adult leaves a firearm within reach of a minor and it results in injury or death to another person, it is considered a third-degree felony. This type of charge is punishable with up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Recent Example Case

A mother in Orlando, Florida has been charged with the death of her husband on May 26th, 2022 after their two-year-old son grabbed the couple’s gun and accidentally shot his father. Marie Ayala, 26, has been charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence after the event took place. The charge comes after she had failed to properly store the Glock handgun in a safe place.

All three of Ayala’s children—ranging from five months to five-years-old—had been in their parent’s bedroom when they must have found the gun lying somewhere. It is believed that the young toddler had shot the father, Reggie Mabry, in the back while he was playing a video game.

The Glock had been loaded with an extended high-capacity magazine at the time. Ayala told police she had kept the gun either under a pillow, in a box, or in a safe (although it was broken). She claims that at the time of the shooting the gun could have fallen out of a bag of dirty laundry, which is how the children could have found it.

The affidavit quotes an Orange County Police Officer: “I then asked Marie Ayala if she thought the gun being stored in a bag, three feet above the ground, was safe with children in the room. She advised it was not safe. She acknowledged that any child in the room could have figured out how to get the gun out of the bag.”

After police arrived at the scene, the oldest of the three children—only five-years-old—told both Ayala and authorities that it had been his younger brother who had fired off the gun and accidentally shot their dad.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office stated that the couple should have never owned a gun in the first place, considering both were convicted felons. In addition to the manslaughter charge, Ayala has also been charged with illegally possessing a firearm as a felon. Ayala is currently being held on a $10,000 bond.

Weapons and Firearms in Florida

Under Florida Statute Section 790.174, it covers the safe storage of firearms that are required for those who choose to own a gun and keep it in their home. The law explains that a person who stores a loaded firearm on a premise under their control, and who knows that a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the lawful permission of the parent or adult will have to keep the firearm in a secure locked box or container. If not, it needs to be kept in a location in which a reasonable person would believe it to be secure from the reach of the minor(s).

If an individual violates the law listed above and fails to properly store their firearm, then it is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. This is especially true if a minor is capable of possessing or exhibiting the firearm in either a public place or in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner. A violation of this statute is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.


Orange County Sheriff John Mina spoke to reporters about the incident, stating, “The gun was not properly stored, and in fact, it was easily accessible even to a two-year-old, and the result is a tragedy in this community that no one can comprehend.”

The following is a statement that Orange County Sheriff’s Office released on their Facebook page after the tragic event:

“The children were not injured physically, but they will likely carry emotional wounds forever. Not only have they effectively lost both parents, the toddler who accidentally shot his father in the back will have to grow up with the knowledge that his actions caused his dad’s death. If you own a gun, always be responsible.”

OCSC continued their Facebook post by addressing the importance of understanding how to store a firearm. The Department pushed that although these tragedies are incomprehensible, they are 100% preventable.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Although no adult ever intends for a minor to gain possession of a weapon or firearm, this most recent case is an example of how quickly things can turn deadly when a weapon is not stored properly. Even though it was a complete accident, the mother is now facing severe charges. If you or a loved one have been accused of a culpable negligence charge, make it your top priority to reach out to a skilled attorney in your area. An experienced Florida Criminal Defense attorney can help you navigate the legal processes and help strategize possible defenses for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across Florida and will work tirelessly to try and ensure your freedom. For a free consultation today, call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message.

Written by Karissa Key

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