Reckless Endangerment is a crime that is often misunderstood. Although it can take many forms, it is basically any reckless action that “creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person”. Even though a drive-by-shooting is certainly such an action, drive-by-shootings are specifically exempted from the statute because they are addressed in a separate criminal charge. Reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor and a person crime. It can therefore result in up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Although we all use the term “reckless” somewhat regularly, it has a specific meaning under the law. To be acting recklessly for purposes of the Reckless Endangerment state, a person must know of and disregard a considerable risk of death or serious injury to another when engaging in some action. This can be when driving, wielding a weapon, giving another person drugs or alcohol, using explosives or heavy machinery or a number of other activities. The statute is written so broadly, that it is difficult to even imagine all the various scenarios that one could be charged with such a crime. Most, but certainly not all, Reckless Driving charges arise out of some dangerous driving or fighting within a moving motor vehicle. In fact, it is common to see a Reckless Driving charge associated with a DUI charge due to driving in a dangerous manner while intoxicated. However, driving while under the influence itself is not typically enough to support a Reckless Driving conviction. Likewise, speeding while driving is itself not enough to support a conviction.
Additionally, a risk alone is not enough to support the criminal charge. The risk must be substantial. Substantial as defined under this charge means “considerable, not merely having some existence.” Whether an action rises to the level of a crime under the Reckless Endangerment statute is highly fact dependent, as Washington law has not adopted any actions that are always Reckless Endangerment. Because the determination is so fact specific, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney that is skilled at trial if you are facing a Reckless Endangerment charge. Whether an action is criminal depends on whether the jury believes it to be. A skilled prosecutor might be able to convince more people that an action is criminal than an unskilled prosecutor. Even more important is that a skilled criminal defense attorney can deftly poke holes in a prosecutor’s case.
More Specifically, What Is Dangerous?
One can argue that anything is dangerous, from walking along an interstate to petting a strange dog. However, deciding whether something creates a substantial risk of serious injury or death is far more nuanced. Therefore, having a skilled criminal defense attorney to help you in trial is important to making sure you do not get convicted of Reckless Driving where you should not.
Because Reckless Endangerment is a crime against a person and is a gross misdemeanor, it can have collateral consequences beyond simply jail and a fine. It can affect your employability, immigration status, your ability to be a foster parent and much more. If you are facing a criminal charge of Reckless Endangerment, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Priest Criminal Defense, we can evaluate your case for free and help you mount a criminal defense that will best protect you from jail, fines and potential other ruin. Call us today!