You probably know the laws about assault and battery: It’s illegal to intentionally physically harm someone or attempt to harm them, and if you’re convicted of such a crime, you can spend years in prison and/or pay hefty fines.
What many people aren’t as familiar with, however, is the law regarding reckless endangerment—irresponsible behavior that seriously endangers the life or physical well-being of another person. Like assault, a reckless endangerment conviction can be devastating to your life: You can go to prison and be required to pay substantial amounts of money if you’re found guilty of such a crime.
Have you been charged with reckless endangerment? Don’t wait—you need a criminal defense attorney to help you figure out your next options. Call Maryland reckless endangerment attorney Randolph Rice at (410) 694-7291 today. You have questions, you have fears, you’re not sure what to do next; Randolph Rice can help you.
What does the law say?
Reckless endangerment is prohibited under the Maryland code. § 3-204 of the state code holds that individuals may not “recklessly…engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another;” people are also prohibited from discharg[ing] a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another.”
Anybody who violates this statute, the code holds, is guilty of a misdemeanor crime; this crime is less serious than that of a felony, but it still carries with it the penalty of “imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.”
Thankfully, those who are acting in self-defense as defined by the Maryland code § 5-101 are not liable to be convicted under this law. If you’re defending yourself from someone else who is attacking you in a criminal manner, it’s much less likely that you’ll be charged with or convicted of reckless endangerment.
What’s illegal is if you endanger someone for no reason and when you should have known better. A conviction of reckless endangerment can upend your life.
What if I didn’t mean to hurt anyone?
The courts will look closely at each individual charge of reckless endangerment. But the one crucial aspect of the law is this: If someone should have reasonably known that his or her behavior was reckless and risked seriously injuring or killing someone else, that person is much more likely to be convicted under this statute. Even if you didn’t mean to hurt anyone at all, the courts may still find you guilty for reckless endangerment.
For instance, if you casually toss a brick over the side of a highway overpass, and it injures or kills a driver in a car below, you won’t be able to claim that you didn’t think the brick would hurt anyone. Almost everyone knows that freeways and highways are crowded with motorists and that throwing a brick over the side of it is very dangerous. A reckless endangerment conviction is likely to follow.
Similarly, if you leave a loaded, unlocked, unsecured handgun in a place where children can easily access it, you may be guilty of reckless endangerment—even if no children are hurt by the gun. Gun safety is something virtually everyone should be aware of; if you behave recklessly with a gun, you may be facing an endangerment charge, if not a conviction.
Are you facing a reckless endangerment charge? You should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Call Randolph Rice, a Maryland reckless endangerment attorney, at (410) 694-7291 today. You need an attorney to help you defend yourself in court. Call Randolph Rice and schedule a free consultation.
Reckless endangerment: Some real-life cases
As written above, one does not need to actually injure someone in order to be tried and convicted for reckless endangerment. One needs only to “recklessly…engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another.” That means that if you almost hurt someone by way of your irresponsible behavior, you may be convicted under this law.
In Maryland, several recent court cases resulted in convictions of reckless endangerment:
- In Charles County two years ago, a man was found guilty of reckless endangerment for firing several bullets into a home of a man with whom he was angry. The shooter “not only placed two shots in the home of the man he was angry with, he also put two bullets in the home of a single mother and her young child.” Nobody was injured, but the shooter was still convicted on five counts of reckless endangerment.
- In Leonardtown last year, a woman was convicted of, among several other charges, reckless endangerment for her role in the overdose death of another woman.
- Also in Leonardtown this year, a man was found guilty of reckless endangerment, along with involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy to distribute, for his role in another drug overdose.
- In Baltimore last winter, a man was convicted of reckless endangerment when he accidentally shot a bystander in the course of a dispute with one of his customers.
None of these individuals meant to harm any of the individuals whom they hurt or almost hurt; the law, however, does not consider intent in the role of a reckless endangerment charge, only whether or not the defendant should have reasonably known that their behavior was dangerous to those involved.
The drug dealing cases in particular are good examples of how reckless endangerment laws work. Though it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to be a drug dealer, it’s nevertheless the case that drug overdoses are very common knowledge among the drug dealing community.
Drug overdosing is an epidemic in this country, and the problem actually seems to be getting worse, not better; there is likely no drug dealer that is unaware of the pervasive problem of overdosing in this country. A dealer who provides someone with a dangerous substance that presents a serious risk of death or injury is absolutely setting himself up for a reckless endangerment charge—and understandably so.
It’s also important to note that even law enforcement officials are not immune to reckless endangerment charges. In Bel Air, Maryland a few years ago, a sheriff’s deputy was charged with reckless endangerment due to his having “discharged his weapon after a confrontation with a driver.”
The penalties were serious: The deputy “was given a five-year suspended sentence Tuesday and will be on two years of probation. He also has to complete anger management counseling and perform 500 hours of community service.” Remember—these penalties were imposed even though the deputy did not hurt anyone.
A reckless endangerment conviction does not mean the defendant injured another person; it means the defendant could have injured another person and should have known that the injury was possible.
If you’ve been charged with reckless endangerment, don’t hesitate: You need legal representation to help you figure out your next moves and defend you in court. Call Randolph Rice, a Maryland reckless endangerment attorney, at (410) 694-7291. Randolph Rice can work with you to help you avoid jail and win your case. Call today for a free consultation.