"Normal negligence is kind of like driving when you're changing the radio station; failing to exercise ordinary care," Van Wagner said. ..the prosecution must also prove causation... the defendant's criminal negligence has to be a substantial cause of the death."
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Criminal negligence is the "mens rea" of negligent crimes such as negligent homicide. When a person is charged with negligent homicide, the prosecuting attorney is stating that he recognizes that the alleged defendant lacked intent to commit the crime, such as would be required in an intentional homicide crime. But, says the actions of the prosecuting attorney, the alleged defendant either knew or should have known that his actions could or would result in death or substantial bodily injury to another person, and those actions were beyond "just negligent", they were criminally negligent.
Criminal negligence is a much higher degree of negligence, it can be shown in situations in which there is a substantial chance of death or serious bodily injury. Criminal negligence is difficult to prove. The legislature created the category of criminal negligence, but criminal negligence did not exist in common law; it is only in statutory law.
Conversely, ordinary negligence occurs when a person fails to exercise ordinary care, such as if a person is driving a car and changing the radio station at the same time. Ordinary negligence can occur when a person fails to act, if a legal obligation or duty to act exists. Ordinary care is determined by a "reasonable care standard" - that is, by a standard of care that would be expected to be exercised by a competent person in the same activity under similar circumstances.
Causation & Criminal Negligence
In order for a defendant to be found guilty of a criminally negligent crime, the prosecution must prove that the defendant's criminal negligence was a substantial factor in the cause of the resulting death.