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Definition - What does Endangerment mean?

Endangerment is the act of putting another person at substantial risk of death or physical injury. Endangerment does not require the intent to kill or injure, only the foreknowledge that the activity could be dangerous.

For example, a person who drives recklessly under the influence of alcohol does not have to intend to injure or kill another person. But they should have known their actions could have posed a significant risk to other drivers.

Endangerment or reckless endangerment, as it is commonly called, is a criminal offense which can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the severity of the situation. In some cases, the reckless or wanton actions of the offender may allow a charge to be upgraded to a felony or combined with other charges. The court may have some discretion imposing penalties. For instance, some courts and jurisdictions have mandatory penalties. Other courts may allow the judge to determine the penalties.

Common endangerment charges

There are a variety of different actions which can be considered endangerment. For instance, if you drive at an excessive speed, throw something off a high building or overpass, leave a gun lying around your home, or leave your child unattended you can be charged with endangerment. As mentioned above, endangerment can include any action which puts another person or group of people at serious risk of injury.

Defense against Endangerment

Defendants charged with endangerment can argue they were not involved in the disputed action, they were not aware their actions were dangerous, or they did not have the mental capacity to understand or make sound decisions. All of these defenses can be difficult to prove, especially if the prosecution or state has significant evidence to the contrary.

Penalties can be significant for endangerment charges. For instance, in some states the fine could be as high as $5,000 and up to five years in prison. If you are charged with a felony there are more severe penalties and other serious consequences which could affect your ability to vote, own a gun, or find employment. Talk to a defense lawyer if you have been charged with endangerment.


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