Does the Attorney General have a legal obligation to provide a jury with a criminal negligence or endangerment instruction?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from People v. Cheam, B251610 (Cal. App. 2014):

Appellant contends the trial court's instruction failed to further define for the jury the term "criminal negligence," which is required with charges of indirect child abuse, i.e., child endangerment. The Attorney General concedes error as the court in Valdez, supra, 27 Cal.4th at page 783, settled the issue. Defining "criminal negligence" is required so the jury knows the standard by which it must judge the breach of the duty of care to the child. (See also People v. Peabody (1975) 46 Cal.App.3d 43, 48-49 [where endangerment is at issue the jury must be informed "the defendants' conduct must amount to a reckless, gross or culpable departure from the ordinary standard of due care; it must be such a departure from what would be the conduct of an ordinarily prudent person under the same circumstances as to be incompatible with a proper regard for human life."].)

Page 18

"In general the trial court has a sua sponte duty to give amplifying or clarifying instructions ' "where the terms used [in an instruction] have a technical meaning peculiar to the law." ' " (People v. Richie (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th 1347, 1360.)

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