In New York, not every crime requires criminal intent. Sometimes, people act so carelessly that their actions can be considered criminal, even when they never intended to cause harm. This is one characteristic of the reckless endangerment laws that govern behaviour in the Bronx and throughout New York State.
A Deeper Look at the Reckless Endangerment Laws of New York
There are two distinctions under the reckless endangerment laws in the state of New York, which carry separate sentencing guidelines. The distinction is based on the defendant’s actions and the severity of the risk of harm.
Reckless endangerment in the second degree occurs when an individual engages in any activity that creates “a substantial risk of serious harm” to others. The law doesn’t require that harm is resulted, but only that the risk is possible. Endangering the safety of another is all that’s required to establish a case for second degree reckless endangerment.
As a class A misdemeanor, New York courts can subject a convicted defendant to up to one year in jail. They also have the option of sentencing the individual to three years of probation, instead. The difference may depend on the judge and on the specific circumstances of the case. There’s also a monetary fine that may be imposed. According to the state’s penal code, the court has the choice of imposing a fine of up to $1,000 or they may request a fine that’s as much as double the gain the defendant received in connection to the criminal activity.
First degree reckless endangerment is far more serious in that it requires the defendant exhibiting a “depraved indifference” to human life. In the eyes of the law, the phrase “depraved indifference” refers to a moral state of being in which the individual holds so little value for human life that it’s considered the same as acting with criminal intent. Acting with so much disregard, the perpetrator then commits acts so reckless that he or she puts the lives and safety of others in grave risk of death.
Reckless endangerment in the first degree is categorized as a class D felony. In light of the extreme negligence that this crime implies, it’s easy to see why the state classifies this crime as a felony and why the associated punishment is much more severe. In New York, class D felonies are further divided into violent and non-violent classifications. That distinction may have more to do with the way the conviction appears on the defendant’s record, however, as the penalty is consistent for both classifications. Both a violent and a non-violent class D felony may be punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment.
Not Guilty by Reason of Factual Impossibility
Typically, this is the primary defense against a reckless endangerment charge, whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor. A factual impossibility is a detail of the event that can not have existed in a manner relevant to establishing the criminal activity. This means one element of the crime is missing; either the depraved indifference or serious risk of harm is absent.
For instance, a defendant fires a gun into a room he believes to be populated, but, is in fact, vacant. Even though he intended to harm the people in the room, exhibiting depraved indifference, the fact that the room is empty takes away the significant risk of serious harm or the grave risk of death.
Even the Court of Appeals, otherwise known as the court of last resort in the state of New York, has established that factual impossibility is a legitimate defense to reckless endangerment. This is because the level of risk is necessary in establishing the charge of reckless endangerment.
If you are facing reckless endangerment charges, it’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. The earlier you can bring your advocate in on the case, the better the chance that he or she can arrange a deal or a compelling defense. An initial consultation will help your lawyer look at the details of your case and determine the best courses of action. Together, you and your lawyer may be able to achieve an acquittal or get the charges dismissed. Even if those options fail, an experienced reckless endangerment attorney may be able to get you a reduced sentence.