Reckless Endangerment

Reckless Endangerment in the First and Second Degrees

New York criminal defense lawyers can tell you that Reckless Endangerment, pursuant to New York Penal Law sections 120.20 and 120.25, is a unique crime unlike most other offenses in the New York criminal code. That is, both Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree (NY PL 120.25) and Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree (NY PL 120.20) are crimes not defined by the intent of the alleged perpetrator, but by the degree of recklessness in his or her actions. Unlike intentional crimes where it may be easy to establish the proper mental state for the crime (one’s intent is fairly clear, for example, if one withdraws $1,500 from a stranger’s bank account by stealing that person’s identification), prosecutors must establish that you acted so egregiously and recklessly that your actions were criminal in nature even though they were not intentional.

Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree – NY Penal Law 120.20

One is guilty of Second Degree Reckless Endangerment when one recklessly acts in a manner that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. Defined by statute, serious physical injury is something much more significant and devastating than a fractured pinky finger or a fat lip. Mere physical injury is not sufficient. Moreover, one’s actions may not merely create a risk of this serious physical injury, but a substantial risk. Assuming the prosecution can prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant can serve up to one year in jail for this crime.

Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree – NY Penal Law 120.25

Similar to Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, the First Degree Reckless Endangerment is more difficult to establish. First, the prosecution must not just establish a substantial risk, but that the actions of the accused evinced a depraved indifference to human life. Furthermore, the conduct he or she recklessly engaged in must create a grave risk of death to another person. Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree is a “pumped up” version of the misdemeanor offense. A “D” felony, this crime is punishable by up to seven years in state prison.

Potential Defenses to Reckless Endangerment

Although each case is unique and one defense may work well in a particular case and not in another, the following are two potential defenses to Reckless Endangerment that you and your New York criminal defense attorney may seek to pursue.

  • Factual Impossibility: Even if the actions are alleged to be true, if it was factually impossible for anyone to suffer any type of injury or there was no risk at all, the law provides for this defense.
  • Can the Prosecution Establish Proper Degree of Injury: As noted, mere physical injury is not sufficient. The injury must be either serious physical injury or death depending on the degree charged.

The above mentioned defenses are merely two general defenses out of potentially dozens, but ones supported through criminal case law. Again, whether they are applicable to your case is something that should be discussed in detail with your New York criminal defense attorney.

For further information on the crime of Reckless Endangerment, follow the links above as well as the link to Crotty Saland PC’s analysis of former flight attendant Steven Slater’s Reckless Endangerment arrest stemming from his releasing of a JetBlue airplane evacuation slide. Additional information on Reckless Endangerment and other crimes, including cases in the news, legal decisions and criminal statutes, can be found on the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog.

Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients in New York City and the surrounding area. Prior to starting the firm, both partners served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Call us at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today to discuss your case and possible defenses.