Reckless Endangerment is a misdemeanor under Maryland law which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of $5,000. This crime is another example of what is known in Maryland as a “penitentiary misdemeanor”; which means that even though the crime is a misdemeanor, it carries a maximum penalty that subjects a defendant to the possibility of being sent to the state prison system and not just a county detention center.
The statute prohibits a person from recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person. The statute specifically prohibits the discharging of a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another person. The courts have ruled that it is not necessary that the state prove that the risk of serious physical injury is substantially certain to occur. Instead a person need only be aware that his conduct might cause the injurious result to be guilty of reckless endangerment. Another way of stating this is that the “mens rea” or intent requirement of reckless endangerment is not that the person strives or intends or even desires an injurious outcome. It is instead that the person is unconcerned with the possibility that their conduct may seriously injure someone else. Recklessness is what is being prohibited.
Therefore, the statute does not require the actual causing of physical injury. Instead, the legislature specifically intended to deter the commission of potentially harmful conduct before an injury or death occurs. As a consequence a person may be found guilty of reckless endangerment even in situations where no death or injury of any kind has occurred as a result of the reckless conduct. Examples of situations in which reckless endangerment convictions have been sustained include:
- Leaving loaded firearms unsecured in a home where minor children reside
- Failure to provided medical attention to a person to whom a duty was owed
- Carrying a fully loaded handgun that was not equipped with a safety mechanism inside a backpack in a crowded office.
- Throwing heavy objects off of the roof of a tall building.
- Throwing rocks or other projectiles at moving automobiles.
Where an actual serious bodily harm or even death occurs as a result of the reckless conduct, the consequences can be far more severe for the defendant. Reckless conduct causing death can constitute either involuntary manslaughter or in some circumstances, second degree murder under a depraved heart theory. Even in circumstances where no actual harm has occurred, reckless endangerment is a serious offense. Anyone charged with this offense is in need of an aggressive and experienced criminal defense team. Please contact our office for a free consultation.