Reckless endangerment is a term that most people have heard, but most people don’t understand.
What are the laws that regulate Reckless Endangerment?
The law relating to Reckless Endangerment is found at NRS 202.595.
NRS 202.595 – Performance of act or neglect of duty in willful or wanton disregard of safety of persons or property; penalty.
Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by statute and except under the circumstances described in NRS 484B.653, a person who performs any act or neglects any duty imposed by law in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property shall be punished:
- If the act or neglect does not result in substantial bodily harm or death of a person, for a gross misdemeanor.
- If the act or neglect results in the substantial bodily harm or death of a person, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.
Reckless endangerment seems even more vague than other laws, why is that?
The law for “reckless endangerment” is intentionally vague because it allows law enforcement officers and prosecutors to make decisions about whether conduct applies based on all of the surrounding circumstances. This means that there are situations where your conduct may be considered reckless, but the officer or prosecutor may choose to not arrest you or bring charges because they feel that, under the circumstances, your conduct was reasonable.
Unfortunately, it also means that law enforcement officers can arrest you, and prosecutors can charge you, for their own belief that you were acting in a reckless manner.
Moreover, your reckless conduct does not have to cause any harm or damage to another person or to property, as the statute is specifically for reckless endangerment.
Okay, so what is “reckless endangerment”?
“Reckless endangerment” is not a difficult legal concept to understand, it applies to any conduct that displays a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
What does “willful and wanton” mean?
They are legal terms that mean, in this situation, that the conduct was intentional (willful), and that it showed a complete indifference (wanton disregard) to the outcome of your actions. In other words, “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” means that your conduct was intentional and showed that you either did not consider the potential results of your conduct, or did not care what the potential harms may be.
Clearly, this means that “reckless endangerment” is an extremely broad crime, so broad, in fact, that it would be impossible to provide examples of the types of conduct that could be seen as "reckless endangerment.” However, some possible examples may include:
- Driving erratically and at excessive speed, particularly on busy roads and with someone else in the car (because of the possibility of causing a crash);
- Randomly firing a gun in a populated area (because of the possibility that you may hit someone);
- Dropping a brick off the roof of a building onto a crowded street (because of the possibility that the brick might strike and hurt or kill someone);
- Setting off fireworks too close to a building or other flammable structure (because of the possibility of setting fire to the building or structure);
- Firing a gun while intoxicated (because of the lack of hand-eye coordination and possibility of hitting something other than what you’re aiming at); or
- Letting young children go to the park and play unattended.
Generally, any conduct that has more than a small chance of causing damage to property or serious injury or death to a person is considered “reckless endangerment.”
PLEASE NOTE: Once again, it is irrelevant whether any damage or injury actually occurred for a conviction for “reckless endangerment.” Charges can be brought, and convictions upheld based solely on the possibility that someone could have been injured or that property would be damaged.
What are the possible penalties?
The penalties for “reckless endangerment” depend on result of the conduct.
If the conduct resulted in no bodily injury, then the charge will be a gross misdemeanor, and will carry with it:
- Up to 1 year in jail; and/or
- Possible fines up to $2,000.
If the conduct did result in bodily injury or death, then the reckless endangerment will be charged as a category C felony, and will carry with it:
- Between 1 and 5 years in a state prison; and
- Possible fines up to $10,000.
PLEASE NOTE: It is possible to create a plea bargain with the prosecutor to get your charges reduced to something lesser, such as breach of peace. Such plea bargains are more likely the less outrageous the alleged conduct was and the less likely that a person could have been injured or killed.
Are there any Defenses?
Yes, of course there are. Particularly when the charges are as vague as “reckless endangerment,” an experienced attorney can find defenses based on the particular circumstances of your case. Some of the possible defenses include:
- No Reckless Conduct – “Reckless endangerment” requires both that your actions were intentional, and that they showed a wanton disregard for safety or property. If you or your attorney can show that your conduct was either unintentional, or was merely negligent, then the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed. However, if your conduct was negligent, then you may be civilly liable for any damage you caused.
- No Threat to Property or Person – Even if your conduct was outrageous, if you had no possibility of causing property damage or injuring anyone, then you were not acting with a “wanton disregard” for person or property. If you or your attorney can show that no damage or injury could have resulted from your conduct, then the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed.
- Lack of Evidence – As with any crime, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is not enough evidence to uphold this high level of proof, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with a crime involving a Stun Gun?
As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.