What is Reckless Endangerment in New York?
Reckless endangerment refers to when someone engages in behavior that creates a substantial risk of serious injury or death to others. There are two degrees of reckless endangerment charges in New York – reckless endangerment in the first degree and reckless endangerment in the second degree. Let’s break down what each of these charges mean.
Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree
Under New York Penal Code Section 120.20, a person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when they:
- Recklessly engage in conduct
- Which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person
So what does this mean? Basically, if you do something dangerous that could seriously hurt someone else, you could be charged with this crime.
Some examples of reckless endangerment in the second degree include:
- Throwing objects off a tall building where people are below
- Driving through a red light at high speed
- Pointing a gun at someone and pulling the trigger, even if you think it’s not loaded
The key is that your actions create a substantial risk of serious injury, even if no one actually gets hurt.
What Makes it Reckless?
For this charge, New York law defines “reckless” as being aware that your conduct creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm, but consciously disregarding that risk anyway.
It doesn’t matter if you intended to hurt anyone or not. The focus is on your actions and the potential consequences.
What is Serious Physical Injury?
Under New York law, “serious physical injury” means things like:
- Injury that creates a substantial risk of death
- Loss of a body part or organ
- Serious disfigurement
So we’re talking about really serious bodily harm here.
Some possible defenses to this charge include:
- No substantial risk of harm – For example, if the gun you pointed at someone wasn’t loaded.
- No reckless conduct – You took reasonable precautions to avoid harm.
- No awareness of risk – You were unaware of the risk due to things like mental disease or defect.
Reckless endangerment in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, potential penalties include:
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to 3 years probation
- Fines up to $1,000
So while it’s not a felony, it’s still a criminal conviction with real consequences. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney can help minimize the penalties.
Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree
Reckless endangerment in the first degree is more serious. Under New York Penal Code Section 120.25, a person is guilty when:
- Under circumstances showing a depraved indifference to human life
- They recklessly engage in conduct
- Which creates a grave risk of death to another person
The key difference here is the “depraved indifference to human life” part. This means you acted in an especially heinous, uncaring way that showed no regard for human life. Some examples include:
- Playing Russian roulette with someone else
- Shooting into a crowd
- Driving on the sidewalk at high speed
So the risk of death has to be really serious, and your mental state is especially negligent.
Some possible defenses here include:
- No depraved indifference – Your actions were reckless but not depraved.
- No grave risk of death – The risk wasn’t as serious as the law requires.
- No recklessness – You took reasonable precautions.
Because this is a class D felony, potential penalties are more severe:
- Up to 7 years in prison
- Probation up to 5 years
- Fines up to $5,000
So having an experienced criminal defense lawyer is critical if facing this charge. They can argue against the depraved indifference element and try to get the charges reduced.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
As you can see, reckless endangerment charges can lead to jail time and substantial legal penalties. But an experienced criminal defense attorney can help in several ways:
- Evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case. Do they actually have evidence of reckless conduct and serious risk of injury?
- Identify weaknesses in the charges and build an aggressive defense. For example, argue there was no real risk of harm.
- Negotiate with the prosecution to get charges reduced or dismissed. Prosecutors often overcharge at first.
- Advocate for minimal penalties if charges can’t be avoided. There’s a big difference between probation vs years in prison.
So don’t go through this alone. Get experienced legal help right away if facing reckless endangerment charges in New York. It could make all the difference in avoiding jail time and getting your life back.