A person who recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person commits reckless endangerment, which is a class 3 misdemeanor.
In New York, an individual can violate the reckless endangerment statute when he/she recklessly commits an action or engages in conduct that subjects another person to the risk of serious physical injury, which is defined to include:
Loss or serious impairment of any major organ
Significant and lasting health impairment
Impairment that creates risk of death or causes death
Actions must be of a type that deviates grossly from the state of conduct that a reasonable individual would follow in the same situation. Examples of situations that have resulted in reckless endangerment charges include:
Leaving a loaded firearm where children can access them
Throwing rocks and other objects at moving cars
Throwing heavy objects off the roof or out the window of a tall building
Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree is a Class A misdemeanor that can send you to jail for up to one year. You may even be ordered to pay restitution if your actions caused damage. Other complications include a criminal record and restricted access to employment or housing.
Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree is defined as conduct that presents a genuine risk of death to another person, performed under circumstances that demonstrate a depraved indifference to human life. In other words, you acted in a way that could have gotten someone else killed, and your actions indicate you simply don’t care that you did so.
Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree is a Class D felony that can, upon conviction, send you to prison for anywhere from two and one third to seven years. If you have a prior felony on your record, then the minimum sentence can go up to four years.
Although intended to penalize those who willfully act in ways that put others at risk of injury or death, the reckless endangerment statute is comparatively vague. For that reason, prosecution can sometimes be selective and driven more by the emotions involved in a case than any actual evidence of criminal behavior.
RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO DUI
Although the law does not offer specific criteria for “reckless endangerment,” this crime is often associated with drunk driving; however, a reckless endangerment conviction is less significantly less devastating than a DUI – especially compared to felony DUI, DUI with injury, or multiple DUIs.
RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT VS. DRUNK DRIVING
Reckless endangerment differs from drunk driving in a variety of ways. For example, there is no mandatory jail sentence for a reckless endangerment conviction, while DUI comes with mandatory penalties. If you are convicted of reckless endangerment, the judge can enforce a sentence of one year in jail, but this is not an obligation. Similarly, there is no mandatory fine for reckless endangerment, but you can face up to $5,000 in fines.
OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES THAT QUALIFY AS “RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT”
While reckless endangerment is typically used as a reduction from standard DUI charges, Washington law does not exclude other situations from qualifying as “reckless endangerment.” Generally speaking, any form of behind-the-wheel negligence could be reckless endangerment. Carrying a weapon while operating a motor vehicle could merit a reckless endangerment charge too. Rarely, RCW 9A.36.050 is used to prosecute criminal offenses unrelated to driving.
Sentencing for a Reckless Endangerment Conviction
If you are convicted of a reckless endangerment offense your sentence may include one or more of the following punishments: prison, post-release supervision, probation, fine, restitution, and community service. Your sentence will depend on the reckless endangerment crime of which you are convicted, your criminal background, and any aggravating or mitigating factors related to the crime.
Sentence for reckless endangerment of property. Reckless endangerment of property is a Class B misdemeanor.
Prison: Up to 90 days in the county jail.
Fine: Up to $1,000
Probation: 3 years
Sentence for reckless endangerment in the second degree. Reckless endangerment in the property is a Class A misdemeanor.
Prison: Up to 1 year in the county jail.
Fine: Up to $1,000
Probation: 3 years
Sentence for reckless endangerment in the first degree. Reckless endangerment in the property is a Class D felony.
Prison: Up to 7 years in state prison.
Fine: Up to $5,000
Probation: 5 years
Post-release supervision: 1.5-3 years
Aggravating factors include information about your case and your background that may lead the judge to give you a stiffer sentence, while mitigating factors may lead the judge to give you a lighter sentence. For example, if your criminal history would be an aggravating factor. If you fail to take responsibility for the crime or fail to show remorse, the judge will consider that as an aggravating factor. On the other hand the judge will look favorably up you showing remorse or reimbursing the victim for any losses suffered.
If part of your sentence includes probation, it will be 3 years for a misdemeanor conviction or 5 years for a felony conviction. If your sentence includes both prison and probation, you will serve the terms concurrently. This means that if your sentence for a conviction of misdemeanor reckless endangerment is 30 days in jail, plus 3 year probation, you will serve 30 days of your probation term while you are in jail. Once you are released from jail you will have to serve the balance of your probation, which would be 3 years minus 30 days.
While serving your probation sentence you will be subject to many rules. If you break any of the rules a judge could revoke your probation and resentence you to prison. The rules will include that you cannot commit another crime, you must have a job, you must not associate with disreputable people, you must not patronize disreputable places, you must not drink alcohol excessively, you must not use illegal drugs, and you must support your family. In addition, you will be required to report to your probation officer on the regular basis.
If convicted of felony reckless endangerment part of your sentence will likely include a term of post-release supervision of up to 3 years. Like probation, while you serve your term of post-release supervision there will be several rules that you must follow. If you violate any of the terms of your post-release supervision you will receive a revocation hearing before a judge. Based on the evidence presented, the judge may allow you to continue with the post-release supervision with the terms undisturbed, require you to go back to jail for a period and then return to post-release supervision status, or require you to return to prison to complete your original sentence plus additional time for violating your post-release supervision.
Fees and Restitution
In addition being ordered to pay a fine, you will also have to pay fees and restitution. The amount of restitution will depend on the losses suffered by the victim as a result of your crime. Generally, the maximum amount of restitution is $15,000 for a felony and $10,000 for a misdemeanor.
You will also be required to pay fees. One fee is referred to as a “mandatory surcharge.” It is $300 for felonies and $175 for misdemeanors. You may also be required to pay a victim assistance fee of $25. N.Y. Pen. Law § 60.35. If you are placed on probation, you will have pay probation supervision fees of $30 per month.
As part of the criminal process the prosecutor may offer you the option of pleading guilty in exchange for a reduced charge or a lighter sentence than you would receive if you are found guilty after a trial. This commonly referred to as a plea bargain. However, if you do plead guilty to a lesser charge that will still mean that you will have been convicted of a crime and there will be consequences such as fees, fines, restitution, incarceration and a criminal record. The advantage of agreeing to a plea bargain is that you will not risk being found guilty of the original, more serious charges after a trial and then face a stiffer sentence.
Even after you serve your prison term, post-release supervision term, probation term and pay your fees, fines and restitution, there will be additional long-term consequences to being convicted of reckless endangerment.
Difficulty finding a job as most employers perform criminal background checks
Refused admission into some colleges
Barred from certain careers and professional licensing such as teaching, practicing law, driving a taxi, working as a security guard, and operating a child day care business
Barred from owning a gun
Barred from serving on a jury
Ineligible for certain government benefits such as welfare or federally funded housing
Deportation, if you are not U.S. citizen- even if you are in the U.S. legally
Temporarily barred from voting
While reckless endangerment is not one of the more serious crimes defined in New York Penal Law, the consequences of a conviction are serious. If you are convicted there is a chance that you will end up incarcerated. You may be ordered to pay significant fines and restitution. You will have a criminal record that may limit professional opportunities. Because of the consequences of being convicted of any reckless endangerment charge it is important to have experienced representation who will understand strategies that may lead to the charges being dropped or reduced, or that may lead to your sentence being minimal.