The crime of reckless endangerment is charged when someone has acted in a way that resulted in serious bodily injury or the risk of bodily injury or death to another person. At first glance this may seem vague or overly broad so it needs to be broken down.
Reckless endangerment requires that there is a victim who experienced injury or potential injury that they would not have otherwise been exposed to without the offender’s actions. The risk that the offender created must be a very serious one, usually one of substantial harm or even death. Furthermore, there must be an awareness of the risk. For example, it can be safely assumed that we all know there are serious consequences to drinking and driving, including death. So if a driver who is impaired by alcohol has a child a in the car and they are subsequently caught, in addition to a DUI they will likely be charged with reckless endangerment of that child, who otherwise would only be exposed to the normal risks of being a passenger in a vehicle. Another example of reckless endangerment might be firing a gun into the air within city limits. If you own a gun then you should know that bullets, once discharged, have to land, therefore you have put those in the vicinity of your action at great risk.
Thus it must be shown that the person charged with being reckless knows their actions could carry severe consequences.
But recklessness is not the same as intending to hurt another person. While the law holds you accountable for ignoring the risks involved in certain actions, it also understands that you probably did not intend to hurt anyone. The intentions behind actions and their resulting consequences need to be proven. In some cases, proving recklessness or intent may mean the difference between manslaughter and murder.
On the other hand, recklessness is not the same thing as negligence. So if you had no idea that the action you chose put anyone at risk, and more importantly, that any reasonable person could not have seen the risk involved, then you may be considered negligent rather than reckless. Negligence assumes that the risk is not apparent or that the action was completely accidental. Negligence, however, is not the same thing as being ignorant of the law, which is not an excuse. The court will apply a reasonable person, or objective standard, to what you are expected to know.
For more information on Reckless Endangerment, contact Colorado’s trusted criminal law firm.
Thanks to our friends at Hebets & McCallin for contributing this blog and for their insight into reckless endangerment.