Reckless Endangerment

Section 3-204 of the Maryland Code refers to reckless endangerment. Specifically, it prohibits a person from engaging “in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another, or [discharges] a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another.”

The penalties for violations of this section (a misdemeanor) can include prison time of up to five years, up to a $5,000 fine, or both. There are exceptions to this part of the code, however. For example, subsection (a)(1) doesn’t apply to conduct involving “the use of a motor vehicle, as defined in § 11-135 of the Transportation Article, or the manufacture, production, or sale of a product or commodity.” In addition, subsection (a)(2) doesn’t apply to “a law enforcement officer or security guard in the performance of an official duty, or an individual acting in defense of a crime of violence as defined in § 5-101 of the Public Safety Article.” You can contact a Maryland disorderly conduct lawyer with our firm for more information.

According to the article, there are a number of ways to define “reckless.” Usually, such behavior indicates that someone is careless of consequences, irresponsible, or fails to exercise due caution. Because of the subjective definition, a “reasonable person” standard is applied when perpetrator behavior is analyzed. In other words, in order to be considered reckless, the action must be something that a reasonable person wouldn’t have done.

Juries in Maryland are told that, in order for an action to qualify as reckless endangerment, the state must prove that the defendant:

  • Engaged in conduct that created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury
  • Took action that a reasonable person would not have taken
  • Was aware that his or her conduct might create a risk of death or serious physical injury and consciously disregarded that risk

The mindset of the perpetrator is key when deciding if a person committed reckless endangerment. The perpetrator must have known about potential dangers and ignored them. The risk of harm to others is also key – it cannot be a small risk, or minor injury. It has to be substantial, such as something that could possibly lead to death or serious physical injury.

For example, shooting a gun into a crowd would qualify as reckless endangerment. Another example is dropping a brick into a crowd from atop a building. Reckless endangerment also forbids firing a gun from a vehicle. But firearms don’t always have to be involved in reckless endangerment cases.

Exceptions to reckless endangerment can involve using a vehicle. This is because reckless conduct in these case is usually handled under a different Maryland law. However, firing a weapon from a vehicle isn’t automatically excluded from reckless endangerment statutes.

Other exceptions are when law enforcement officers act in the course of their employment, or when people act in self defense because they fear becoming victims of violence. In the latter cases, crimes of violence include abduction, kidnapping, arson, burglary, carjacking, escape, voluntary manslaughter, maiming, mayhem, murder, rape, robbery, and sex offenses. Exceptions are usually made for acts of self defense even if attempts of violent crimes are involved.

To qualify as self-defense, a person must believe that they were in immediate danger of bodily harm. This must also be a reasonable belief, and the person must use no more force than necessary to defend themselves. Many other factors come into play if deadly force is used.

As you can see, exceptions may apply if you’re charged with reckless endangerment. But it bears repeating that typically, judges or juries examine the following:

  • what a reasonable person would have done under the same circumstances
  • whether there was a substantial risk posed to others
  • you were conscious of danger that you disregarded

Reckless endangerment is a complicated law to understand, because it is not blatantly clear what defines it. Other violations, like possession of a gun or possession of a controlled substance, are easier to understand because the nature of the violation is right in the name. It is very possible to be arrested for reckless endangerment without even having a clear understanding of what you were doing that was against the law. If you fail to understand the nature of your charge, it can be equally difficult to understand the judicial process by which you will be prosecuted. Let an experienced attorney help guide you through the entire process, while ensuring that you have a strong defense strategy built on your behalf.

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