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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 or where one repeatedly strikes another in the face multiple times with a tire iron), prosecutors must establish that you acted so egregiously and recklessly that your actions were criminal in nature even though they were not intentional.

Legal Definitions Pertinent to Reckless Endangerment

Some laws and terms are taken at face value and are defined by their common use. Other words found in a particular statute are defined by the New York Penal Law or by the jury instructions provided at trial. Like many offenses in New York State, Reckless Endangerment in both the First and Second Degree contain some of these words. The following are a few of the specifically defined terms and phrases:

  • Physical Injury
  • Serious Physical Injury
  • Substantial Risk of Physical Injury
  • Depraved Indifference to Human Life
  • Grave Risk of Death
Punishment & Sentence of Reckless Endangerment

Obviously, the magnitude of the punishment for any crime is a severe as that handed down by a judge, but the sentence must always fall within the parameters of the law. As a misdemeanor crime, Second Degree Reckless Endangerment carries a sentence of up to one year in jail. This sentence never waivers. Meaning, you could have a prior criminal history or not history at all and the maximum sentence you could receive would be one year in a local or county jail (Rikers in NYC). Keep in mind, however, that even if the maximum remains the same regardless of your criminal history, a court or prosecutor will no doubt take that history into consideration.

First Degree Reckless Endangerment is quite different than its misdemeanor counterpart. A felony, NY PL 120.25 has no minimum for a first time felony offender and a maximum of two and one third to seven years in prison (2 and 1/3 to 7 years). As such, a judge could sentence you to a conditional discharge, probation, one to three years, two to six years or some variation that does not ultimately exceed seven years in a New York State penitentiary.

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. 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.

Whatever your best defense to a Reckless Endangerment arrest may be, utilize Saland Law’s experience, knowledge and advocacy to protect you before, during and after your appearance in court.

Saland Law 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.

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