What is Reckless Endangerment in NYC?
In New York, Reckless Endangerment charges punish dangerous acts that may create a risk of injury to another person, as opposed to causing an injury. There are two degrees of the crime, Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree and Reckless Endangerment in the Second First Degree. Reckless Engagement charges in New York are punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the level of danger of the alleged reckless act and the level of possible injury to another person.
It is important to note that a Reckless Endangerment charge does not require an actual injury. Reckless Endangerment charges are about the risk of an injury. New York Reckless Engagement charges require that the risk be quite high and the possible injury to be severe for both the Second Degree and First Degree charges. Due to the nature of Reckless Endangerment charges, the crime is often prosecuted in association with other crimes such as Assault, DWI, Weapons Possession, Firearms Possession and Vehicular Assault.
New York Reckless Endangerment Charges
Reckless Endangerment Charges and Recklessness in New York
Criminal laws in New York and every other state are meant to punish bad acts. Most crimes are focused on punishing a person who acts intentionally. Intentionally is defined in Penal Law Section 15.05(1) as an act or conduct that is a person’s conscious objective. In other words, intentional acts are purposeful. An allegation of a person acting recklessly is a lower standard. In the law, recklessly, recklessness and reckless all have the same definition.
Recklessly is defined in Penal Law Section 15.03(3) as when a person “is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk” in association with an act or action.
In addition, the “substantial unjustifiable risk” must not merely be careless it “must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.”
Finally, under New York law, it is not a defense to acting recklessly if a person was unaware of a risk due to intoxication or being drunk.
The difference between acting intentionally and recklessly can be illustrated by the alleged use of a firearm. If a person points a firearm towards another person and fires a round of ammunition, the act will be presumed to be done intentionally. In that example, charges of Assault and even Murder or Manslaughter, where intentionally is required, could result.
Now, instead of pointing a firearm at a person, imagine a person inside an apartment and firing a handgun into the ceiling where there are apartments above.
First, it would be presumed that a person would be aware that the risk of firing a handgun could result in an injury to another person or even death. Next, it would also be presumed that the risk of firing the handgun toward an area where people may be located would be substantial and unjustifiable. Finally, objectively speaking, no reasonable person would fire a handgun toward an area where people may be present so that act is a gross deviation from a standard of conduct.
Thus, a Reckless Endangerment charge in New York seeks to punish people who allegedly behave in alleged reckless behavior that is dangerous to others. It does not matter if an injury results as a result of the alleged reckless act.
Reckless Endangerment Charge Examples
Whether or not alleged acts constitute a Reckless Endangerment charge in New York often depends on the specific facts of each case.
Some examples of where Courts have found that a person acted recklessly in Reckless Endangerment charges include:
- Assaulting a person and rendering the person unconscious and lying in the middle of a heavy traffic street
- Fleeing from police while driving double the speed limit and driving through red lights and stop signs
- Firing a sawed-off shotgun close to and in the direction of police
- An unsuccessful attempt to BASE jump from the observation deck of the Empire State Building
- Setting fire to an unoccupied store that cased firefighters to respond
- Cleaning a petroleum tank without adequate ventilation and in the presence of numerous sources of ignition
Some examples of where Courts have found that a person did not recklessly in Reckless Endangerment charges include:
- The mere threat to shoot another person
- Firing a handgun into the air when outdoors
- Setting fire to a piece of paper on the floor and then stamping out the fire
Reckless Endangerment and Degree of Possible Injury
As noted above, Reckless Endangerment charges in New York are aimed at alleged dangerous acts where there is a high risk of injury. But the level of injury must be quite high for Reckless engagement charges. The Second Degree crime requires a high risk of at least a serious physical injury. The First Degree crime requires a high risk of death.
Remember, Reckless Endangerment doesn’t punish actual injuries like Assault charges in New York. So, the possible injury based on a set of Reckless Endangerment allegations is theoretical if there is no actual injury.
New York law has two categories of injuries: (1) physical injury; and (2) serious physical injury. New York defines physical injury as “impairment of physical condition or substantial pain” under Penal Law Section 10.00(9).
Serious physical injury is defined under Penal Law Section 10.00(1) as a physical injury that “creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.” These definitions apply to other New York crimes such as Assault charges.
Thus, Reckless Endangerment charges require at least a high risk of serious physical injury—the high risk of only a physical injury is not enough. Examples of physical injuries in New York include cuts, bruises, swelling and bone fractures. A serious physical injury requires a far worse injury. Except for death, there isn’t a list of what is or what isn’t a serious physical injury.
Generally speaking, a serious physical injury is both long term and/or affects an organ of a person’s body. Some factors to determine if an injury meets the definition of a serious physical injury include: duration of a hospital stays, number of surgeries, the need for medical devices such as a cane, walker or wheelchair and the inability to return to work or school.
Reckless Endangerment and Drones in NYC
In recent years in New York, especially in New York City, arrests of drone hobbyists have made headlines in the news, from allegedly flying a drone near an airport, to crashing into the Empire State Building or into fans at the tennis U.S. Open. Under New York City law, it is illegal to fly a drone within the City. Under federal law, it is also illegal to fly a drone in near the airports in New York City, due to airspace designation, without permission.
Reckless Endangerment charges in New York City usually involve the landing of a drone in an unusual manner, which usually involves a crash. Reckless Endangerment charges involving a drone typically turn on the specific facts of each case. Those facts include: the precise location of the drone flight, the altitude and the weather. In addition, the experience of the drone operator plays a part in such cases, for example, whether or not the drone operator has certain certifications issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
You can learn more about drone laws in NYC here.
Hiring a New York City Reckless Endangerment Lawyer
The criminal justice system is complex and can be intimidating and confusing, especially in New York. Hiring the right New York Reckless Endangerment attorney is crucial in obtaining the ideal outcome when one is charged with a Reckless Endangerment crime in NYC.
The best New York City Reckless Endangerment lawyer is experienced, aggressive and knowledgeable. As a former prosecutor in Manhattan, I have the experience and knowledge from both prosecuting Reckless Endangerment charges, and aggressively defending people against Reckless Endangerment charges in NYC.
Speak With a NYC Reckless Endangerment Attorney Today
If you or a loved one is charged with Reckless Endangerment in New York City, we’re here to help. Contacting a Reckless Endangerment lawyer early in your case is important. A knowledgeable and aggressive Reckless Endangerment lawyer may be able to have the charges completely dismissed based on the facts that are different in every case. In the alternative, a Reckless Endangerment lawyer may be able to negotiate a favorable bargain to a non-criminal outcome or a lesser charge.
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