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ScottyMacEsq
ScottyMacEsq, Attorney
Category: California Employment Law
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Experience:  General practice attorney
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Can a contractor in California be held criminally negligent

Customer Question

Can a contractor in California be held criminally negligent and be indicted criminally if the contractor knowingly installed electrical not to code. In an arbitration, the contractor admitted that he ran an electrical line just below the surface of my mothers backyard and did not bury the line 18 inches below, which is the California code. He stated that he knew this was not correct and up to code.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 2 years ago.

ScottyMacEsq :

Thank you for using JustAnswer. I am researching your issue and will respond shortly.

ScottyMacEsq :

Has someone actually been harmed as a result of this action? And how deep was it buried?

Customer :

The electrical is buried no more than 1" below the surface and is showing places. So far nobody has been injured.

ScottyMacEsq :

Thank you. One moment please while I research this, and will get back to you shortly...

ScottyMacEsq :

"Criminal negligence", in and of itself, is not a "crime". Rather it's a state of mind when a crime is committed. It's opposed to intentional, or knowing, action. For instance, murder requires intentional or knowing action, whereas manslaughter requires criminal negligence.

ScottyMacEsq :

And there's no crime for negligently (even criminally negligently) installing anything not up to code.

ScottyMacEsq :

Now if something that is installed kills or seriously maims someone, that could be the basis for a criminal action against that person.

Customer :

SO for example, if my mother's house burns down and she is in it, then it is criminal.

ScottyMacEsq :

(based upon the criminally negligent state of mind). For instance, if someone was killed, that would be the basis for manslaughter, because of the criminal negligence.

ScottyMacEsq :

Yes, that could be a situation where a criminal action could be brought against him.

Customer :

So even if the work was not done up to code and he admitted that he knew it was not up to code. He has not committed a criminal act. Representing that his work was up to code prior to the hearing to me and my mother.

ScottyMacEsq :

In essence, criminal negligence occurs when a property owner or responsible person fails to uphold a standard of care to a person to whom they owe a duty of care, causing that person harm or death. The breach of standard of care must generally be extreme for the negligent action to constitute criminal negligence.

ScottyMacEsq :

I didn't say that he didn't commit a crime. ALL I said was that he didn't commit any crime with criminal negligence. It's possible that his actions were intentional (which is a different state of mind). That could be criminal fraud, which requires knowing or intentional misrepresentation.

ScottyMacEsq :

So it's quite possible that he committed a criminal act (fraud) when he knowingly and falsely represented that the work was up to code. That's not criminal negligence, because it's knowing and intentional action.

Customer :

SO the misrepresentation is the criminal act.

ScottyMacEsq :

I'm saying that it could be. I certainly couldn't say for certain, because it depends on the entirety of the facts.

Customer :

He wants me to sign away my right to sue before he will pay and I am worried about my mother's house. The Stae Board said to file in superior court against him, but my mother is 82. It will kill her to go through this.

ScottyMacEsq :

Now that being said, most of the time where there's a civil / criminal overlap, such as this, the police won't touch it (even though they could). In my experience, 95% of the time that's what they'll say.

Customer :

I understand could.

ScottyMacEsq :

If you make the settlement contingent upon bringing the wiring up to code, if he fails to do so, you have not lost your rights.

ScottyMacEsq :

And that's entirely what I would based the settlement on if I were you.

ScottyMacEsq :

(getting it up to code, that is)

ScottyMacEsq :

Hope that clears things up a bit. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please select the "accept" button. If you have already clicked "accept", or if you will in the future, please let me know so I can track these for my own reports and customer satisfaction stats. Thank you, and again, good luck to you!

Customer :

THis is my thought also. Thank you very much.

ScottyMacEsq :

My pleasure, and again, good luck to you!

ScottyMacEsq :

If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please select the "accept" button. If you have already clicked "accept", or if you will in the future, please let me know so I can track these for my own reports and customer satisfaction stats. Thank you, and again, good luck to you!

Customer :

Thanks very much. THis is very helpful.

ScottyMacEsq :

My pleasure.

ScottyMacEsq :

If there is something else that I can help you with, please let me know. Please note that I do not get any credit for the time and effort I spent on this (or any question) unless and until you select "accept". Thank you, and again, good luck to you!

ScottyMacEsq :

Should I continue to await your response, or can I assist other customers that are waiting?

ScottyMacEsq :

Are you still there?

ScottyMacEsq :

My apologies. I must assist the other customers that are waiting. If you have any other questions, please let me know, and I will get to them as soon as possible. If not, please select the "accept" button so I can get credit for my work and the time that I spent on your question. Thank you, and again, good luck to you!

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ScottyMacEsq
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