What is Reckless Endangerment?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Reckless endangerment is a charge that can be filed against people who engage in activity with dangerous consequences that could be foreseen, with a disregard for the danger involved. This charge may be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the specifics of the situation. It can also be combined with other charges.

Firing any sort of weapon from the roof of a car, even when the intent is not to harm, is an example of reckless endangerment.
Firing any sort of weapon from the roof of a car, even when the intent is not to harm, is an example of reckless endangerment.

In situations deemed reckless endangerment, people do something that they know is dangerous, and they do not exhibit any thought about the potential consequences of what they are doing. They willfully behave in a way that is wanton or reckless, putting other people at risk. No intent to injure or kill is required; it is enough that the person knew an activity could pose a threat and chose to do it anyway.

One example could be firing a weapon out the sunroof of a car. The person firing the weapon would be aware that there is a chance that someone could be hit with a bullet, potentially putting people in the area in danger. If someone is injured or killed, the person can be charged with a felony, because the use of a deadly weapon such as a gun in a reckless endangerment case upgrades the charge to a felony.

Penalties for this crime can vary. Misdemeanors and felonies are punished differently, as are cases in which people injure others as opposed to cases in which people are killed. The specifics of the case can also play a role. For example, someone charged with reckless endangerment and kidnapping will be subject to different penalties than someone who is just charged with the one crime. Some regions of the world have sentencing guidelines for specific types of crimes, in which case a conviction will come with a mandatory penalty, while in other areas, the judge may have some discretion.

Mounting a defense to this charge can take two approaches. One approach involves disputing that the person engaged in the alleged activity at all. The defense may challenge witnesses who claimed to see the defendant and question other evidence that is designed to place the defendant at the scene. People can also attempt to argue that the person was not aware that the behavior was risky and was therefore not behaving recklessly. Such defenses are very difficult to pursue successfully unless it can be demonstrated that the defendant did not have legal capacity at the time of the crime and therefore was unable to make sound decisions or distinguish between right and wrong.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Would a county holding a public event that is known for injuries, yet not hold event insurance for this, would that be classed as reckless endangerment?


My 17 year old has been given a reckless endangerment citation. He was at a friend's house playing video games. When he went to get in his car to leave, an 18 year old friend jumped on the trunk of his car to ride next door (the distance was less than 500 ft.) When my son started down the street, the 18 year old fell off the back of his car and hit his head on the pavement, knocking him out. He had to be airlifted to the hospital where he spent two days in ICU. I was just wondering what we are looking at when we appear in court?


I am an architect, and just found out that a client of mine improperly disposed of asbestos containing materials in a building I surveyed.

They had a report done in 2007, and after they knew that the drywall and plaster contained asbestos, took it upon themselves to remove it themselves, leaving an amazing mess of asbestos particles behind. We just had a new report done, and the inspector said it was the worst mess they have seen. So, I have now been exposed thanks to their improper removal. Is this reckless endangerment?


i live in the country, and there are no laws about shooting guns within a neighborhood, but there should be some kind of law.

i live very close to these people and they shoot guns all the time. i have called the police for over four years about them, and the police say they can't do anything to them. Do i have to get shot first or die before something can be done? We need laws in the neighborhoods in the country.


In the following situation is there a call for a criminal charge of "reckless endangerment?" If "yes" against whom; and is there also call for a charge of "conspiracy?"

In September 2007, there was a minor water leak in the kitchen ceiling of my condo in a seven story brick and steel high rise built in 1964.

My insurer told me that if I remove my property or move out of the condo before their adjuster inspects (the open walls and ceiling), then the insurer will deny me reimbursement for moving expenses.

Despite my telling (and writing) the management company and my insurer that I am an extremely allergic person, the management company ripped open the kitchen ceiling and wall, thereby exposing me, my real estate and personal property to dust, dirt, mold, etc. that were in the ceiling and wall "voids."

The management company ripped open the ceiling because it wanted to look in my ceiling for a source of the leak and my insurer wanted to know the source of the leak, in order to determine if mine was a "covered loss."

Neither the management company nor my insurer made any effort to isolate the area where the ceiling was being torn down; no plastic barriers, no negative air machine, no hepa filter.

The day after the management company rips open the kitchen wall and ceiling, my insurer's adjuster and my insurance's company's remediation company discover in my open ceiling and walls, what they believe is torn asbestos pipe wrap. They immediately inform the management company and, in writing, confirm their "asbestos" findings two days later with a letter to the management company and to the insurance agent for the condo association, but no one informs me of the probable presence of asbestos.

My insurance company conducts limited surface testing for mold in my condo, but does not test for asbestos or asbestos contamination. The insurance company for my condo conducts air sampling tests for mold.

My insurer pressures me to remove my property from my condo (without testing for asbestos and without remediating for mold or asbestos).

I sue my insurer for "bad faith" and (in 20010) discover, during "Defendant's Production of Documents," letters and notes relating to my insurer's treatment of their adjuster's report that my condo was being exposed to asbestos.

I discover that my insurer hid and suppressed the information that my condo probably was being exposed to asbestos—and that my contractors, movers, appraisers, independent adjuster, lawyer and I, probably, were being exposed to asbestos when we inspected my condo.

According to documents obtained from my insurer, my file was reviewed by multiple parties within the insurer's claims and adjustment sections, including by management and counsel.

In 2010, the management company received a "serious violation" notice from OSHA (and was fined) relating to the management company's improper handling of potential asbestos situations in my building.

What do you think?


It is important to note that reckless endangerment should be a specific action which the ordinary person should be aware endangers others. A specific action. It is important that lack of action cannot be considered in this category.

If by acting positively, an injury can be prevented to someone else there cannot be a requirement that the individual is required to act proactively to prevent the injury. Would a member of the public be duty bound to prevent another from drinking and driving because the second person may injure someone else? The duty of care should be immediate, not remote!

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