Reckless Endangerment in New York
You may have thought your actions were simply a harmless prank or a bit of fun. Yet even if you never intended to hurt anyone, you may be still be charged with reckless endangerment.
That’s because police officers and prosecutors are not interested in what you intended to do or whether you intended to cause any harm. Instead, in the case of reckless endangerment, they will look at your behavior and determine whether the injury that occurred was a foreseeable result of your actions.
For example, if you get behind the wheel of a car after having a few drinks, it is probably fair to say that you did not intentionally set out to cause an accident or injury. Yet, if someone drives while intoxicated and causes injury to another, they may be charged with reckless endangerment.
Why? Because it was absolutely foreseeable that someone incapacitated by alcohol is likely to cause an accident resulting in injury to others.
Some other instances in which one could be charged with reckless endangerment include:
- Throwing items off a rooftop
- Shooting a firearm into the air in a crowded space
- Leaving a child alone in a car in hot/cold weather
In each of these instances, it is really clear that the behavior is likely to result in someone getting hurt. In some cases, reckless endangerment, depending on the circumstances of the case, can be added as an upcharge and the accused may also be charged with an underlying offense. In the above example of driving while intoxicated, the police may charge DUI as well as reckless endangerment.
Three different charges of reckless endangerment under New York Penal Law:
- Reckless Endangerment in the First degree
- Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree
- Reckless Endangerment of Property
Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree
Under New York Penal Law S 120.25 a person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the first degree when, under the circumstances evidencing a depraved indifference to human life, they recklessly engage in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person.
Reckless endangerment in the first degree is a class D felony.
To be convicted of Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree, a prosecutor would have to prove both elements of this crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
These elements are engaging in:
- The reckless conduct
- Demonstrating a depraved indifference to human life.
Depraved indifference to human life means whatever you were doing posed a serious risk of death yet you did not care. In other words, the behavior was so reckless that it evinced an utter indifference as to whether others lived or died as a result of the behavior.
This does not mean there must be an intent to cause such harm but simply that the behavior itself was so outrageously risky to human life that it showed a complete disregard for the value of human life.
Recklessly engaging in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person means that you were aware of the risk your behavior created and simply did not care. The actions evinced here would be far removed from the way an ordinary person would act in such a situation.
The penalty for Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree conviction is up to two and one third to seven years in prison. This penalty increases if you have already been convicted of a felony and your immigration, employment, housing status can all be gravely affected by this charge.
Reckless Endangerment in the 2nd Degree
Although not a felony, reckless endangerment in the second degree is still a serious crime that can have far-reaching implications.
New York penal law 120.20 provides that a person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when he:
- recklessly engages in conduct which creates;
- a substantial risk of; and
- serious physical injury to another person.
A prosecutor must demonstrate that the way you acted is so egregious that your actions are criminal even though you had no intent to cause harm or a conscious disregard of a known risk. In addition, there must be a serious physical injury that occurred as a result of the behavior.
- Recklessly, in this instance, is behavior that creates the risk of serious physical injury by its very nature.
- Substantial risk means that the risk is not far fetched or an outlier.
- Serious physical injury is not a minor scrape or scratch but instead means that a person’s protracted impairment of health or bodily function or impairment of a person’s physical condition which creates a substantial risk of death or serious or protracted physical disfigurement.
The penalty for this crime is up to one year in jail and restitution. The arrest and conviction can also have other implications including a criminal record and an impact on your employment or housing situation.
Reckless Endangerment of Property
New York Penal LawS 145.25 provides that a person is guilty of reckless endangerment of a property when he reckless engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of damage to the property of another person in an amount exceeding two hundred and fifty dollars.
Reckless endangerment of property is a class B misdemeanor.
An example of this crime would be borrowing your friend’s motorcycle and driving it at high speeds. Conviction of this crime could carry a sentence of up to three months in jail as well as a substantial fine. In addition, the criminal record of this conviction could seriously impact your employment, living and professional situation.
What to do if you are an arrest or approached by the police?
Don’t make the mistake of believing just because you didn’t intend to hurt anyone that you will be absolved. Just because you did not intend the result does not mean you are not liable for the consequences of your actions.
A police officer may invite you to tell your side of the story and express sympathy for your declaration that you never meant to hurt anyone. Don’t go into the process believing that if you just explain it all to the police that the situation will be resolved.
If you are asked to speak with the police, the likelihood is that they believe you to be guilty. Make sure that you have all the support and guidance that you need by hiring a criminal defense attorney that can protect your interests. For straightforward answers and reliable advice about reckless endangerment, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our criminal defense attorneys.
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