What is NY Reckless Endangerment?

Understanding the crime of Reckless Endangerment in New York State.

People are often surprised that we have crimes for conduct in which no one has been hurt or injured. They are quick to point out, well ... "no one got hurt so what did I do that was so wrong?"

It is the potential of substantial harm and risk that was created. One of these crimes is called "Reckless Endangerment." Sometimes it is included along (as an additional charge) with a charge of DWI, when the driver has a child in the car. Other real life practice examples:

1. throwing snowballs at moving cars
2. tossing furniture out of an apartment window
2. shooting off paint guns in your backyard (residential area with children present)
3. discharging your handgun into Lake Cayuga while drinking beer
4. high speed driving

S 120.20 Reckless endangerment in the second degree.

A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when
he or she recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of
serious physical injury to another person.

Reckless endangerment in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

The mental state needed for “reckless” is defined in Penal Law §15.05(3)

“A person acts recklessly with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk 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. A person who creates such a risk but is unaware thereof solely by reason of voluntary intoxication also acts recklessly with respect thereto.”

The phrase “serious physical Injury” is defined in Penal Law §10.00(10) as

“… physical injury which 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”.

Do not take the charge of reckless endangerment lightly. It is considered a serious legal infraction and prosecutors are remiss to blow it off to mere stupidity. They fear continued actions of a like nature (a course of conduct without forethought) could in fact lead to someone suffering a lifetime permanent injury or death. They or the Court may seek a cause for the behavior. They may demand a mental health screen or a drug evaluation before a final disposition of the charge.