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Westchester County Domestic Violence and Reckless Endangerment

N.Y. Pen. Law §§ 120.20 & 120.25

Reckless endangerment is engaging in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. Intent is irrelevant. For example, if you fire a gun into the window of an occupied home but you do not injure anyone, while you would not be charged with assault, you would be charged with reckless endangerment. If the person who is the subject to your reckless actions has a family or intimate relationship with you, your actions also amount to domestic violence. Relationships that qualify as family or intimate include:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • Couples who are dating or used to date
  • People who share the same household such as roommates
  • Couples who co-parent children

While reckless endangerment does not necessarily involve the victim suffering a serious injury, it is still a crime with life-altering consequences. Thus, if you have been charged with reckless endangerment arising from a domestic violence incident it is important that you immediately contact an experienced Westchester County Domestic Violence and Reckless Endangerment Lawyer who understands the impact a conviction will have on your life and who will aggressively defend you until your case is resolved.

Reckless endangerment charges

Reckless endangerment is a crime that involves putting another person at risk of injury. In New York there are two types of reckless endangerment: reckless endangerment in the second degree and reckless endangerment in the first degree.

Reckless endangerment in the second degree. Reckless endangerment in the second degree is the charge you will face if you act in a manner that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. The criminal statute defines "serious physical injury" as an injury that presents a substantial risk of death or permanent disfigurement. It is a Class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.20. This charge does not require that anyone actually sustain a physical injury. For example, in the case of People v. Brown, 711 N.Y.S.2d 707 (2000) the defendant was charged with reckless endangerment after he purposely smashed the vehicle he was driving into a pole. His ex-girlfriend was also in the car at the time.

Reckless endangerment in the first degree. Reckless endangerment in the first degree is similar to reckless endangerment in the second degree except that for the first degree charge the prosecutor must show that your actions not only presented a substantial risk of serious injury but also that your actions show that you have a depraved indifference to human life and created a grave risk of death to another person. Another significant difference is that first degree reckless endangerment is a Class D felony, while second degree is a misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.25

Arrest and Arraignment

The first step in the criminal process is that you will be arrested and taken to the local police precinct. At the local precinct your personal information will be taken and you will be fingerprinted. Then you will be taken to Central Booking where you will remain until your arraignment.

Within approximately 24 hours of your arrest you will be arraigned. At your arraignment you will learn the exact charges against you. In some cases the charges will be different from what you expected. Based on a review of the evidence, the assistant district attorney assigned to your case may decide to raise or lower the charge, or to add additional charges.

At your arraignment you will also learn whether or not bail will be required. While you were waiting to be arraigned, you were interviewed by a representative from the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA). The judge uses the report from the CJA to help decide what to do about bail. The judge can set a dollar amount for bail. The judge can choose to remand you, meaning that you will have to remain in jail while your case is being resolved. Or the judge can release you on your own recognizance (ROR), meaning that you will not be required to post bail to be released. However, if you are released it is imperative that you show up at court for every hearing and for each day of your trial. If you do not the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest.

Order of Protection

If you are charged with a reckless endangerment, as part of the criminal process the prosecutor will likely request that the judge issue an Order of Protection in favor of the victim to make sure that the victim is not harmed or threatened while the criminal case is being adjudicated. The Order of Protection may be a "stay away" order or a "refrain from" Order of Protection. If the Order of Protection is a stay away order, then you must not have any type of contact with that person. This means that you must

  • Not have any physical contact with the victim
  • Stay away from the person's home, school or job
  • Not call the person
  • Not email or fax that person
  • Not send that person letters
  • Not send the person messages through other people
  • Not send the person gifts or flowers

If there is a refrain from Order of Protection, then you are prohibited from doing specified acts such as harassing, intimidating, or threatening the victim. While a criminal court Order of Protection that is issued at the beginning of a criminal case is generally temporary, depending on the outcome of the case, a temporary Order of Protection may become final-- meaning that it will remain in effect for up to 8 years. It the court concludes that there is no basis for the Order of Protection, it will be dismissed.

However, if you violate an Order of Protection there will be serious consequences. For example, if you are out on bail and you violate the Order of Protection, your bail may be revoked and you may be sent to jail. If you are on probation, violating an Order of Protection will be a violation of the terms of your probation. You will likely be sent to prison.

Consequences of a Reckless Endangerment Conviction

Prison. Because reckless endangerment in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor, if you are convicted the maximum prison sentence that you will face is up to 1 year in county jail. However, depending on the specific facts of your case and your background, it is possible that instead of sentencing you to jail the judge may sentence you to a probation term of 3 years.

On the other hand, if you are convicted of reckless endangerment in the first degree, the maximum possible sentence is 7 years in prison. Your actual sentence will be based largely on your criminal record. For example, if you have a criminal record that includes at least 1 prior felony conviction within the past 10 years, you will receive a harsher sentence than if you had no prior convictions.

Fines, Fees and Restitution. In addition to being sent to prison, you may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 for a misdemeanor conviction and up to $5,000 for a felony conviction. Fees that you will be required to pay in include a mandatory surcharge of $175-$300 as well as a victim assistance fee of $25. N.Y. Pen. Law § 60.35. If your sentence includes probation or post-release supervision you will be required to pay a monthly supervision fee of $30.

Another financial consequence of a reckless endangerment conviction is that you may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim. The amount of restitution will be based on the losses suffered by the victim based on your actions. For example, if you damaged property you may be ordered to reimburse the victim for the value of the property. Generally, the maximum amount of restitution is $10,000 for a misdemeanor and $15,000 for a felony. Furthermore, you will also have to pay a fee to the company charged with collecting the restitution from you.

Failure to pay a fine, fee or restitution may result in you being charged with yet another crime that could mean a year in prison. However, the court may lower the amount of restitution or modify payment terms if you show the court an inability to pay.

Probation. If you are convicted of reckless endangerment part of your sentence may include probation of 3 years for reckless endangerment in the second degree or 5 years for reckless endangerment in the first degree. As a type of community supervision probation comes with a number of rules and restriction that you will be required to follow or risk being sent to prison. N.Y. Pen. Law § 65.10. The rules are that you must:

  • Avoid injurious or vicious habits
  • Refrain from frequenting unlawful or disreputable places
  • Refrain from consorting with disreputable persons
  • Have a job or be enrolled in school
  • Undergoing available medical or psychiatric treatment and remaining in a specified institution, when required for that purpose
  • Complete an alcohol or substance abuse program, if ordered by the court
  • Support your family
  • Pay restitution
  • Perform community service
  • Post bond or other security for the performance of any or all conditions imposed;
  • Install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle that you use
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol
  • Regularly report to your Probation Officer
  • Obtain permission before traveling or moving outside of New York
  • Notify your Probation Officer if you move or change employment
  • Submit to electronic monitoring

N.Y. Pen. Law § 65.10

If you violate any of the terms of your probation, your Probation Officer may file a Violation of Probation with the court. You will then be required to appear before the judge who originally sentenced you to probation. That judge will listen to evidence and determine if you did indeed violate the terms of your probation. If the violation is minor such as failing to report to your Probation Officer of report a new address, then the judge may choose not to violate you. On the other hand if the violation is significant such as you committing another crime, the judge could revoke your probation and resentence you to jail.

Long-Term Consequences. Even if you are convicted of only a misdemeanor reckless endangerment charge and receive a sentence that includes little or no jail time, there will be additional consequences. You will have a criminal record that will make several aspects of your life more challenging such as getting a job. Nowadays most employers will perform a criminal background check on every applicant. If an employer discovers that you have a criminal history, there is a good possibility that you will not be hired. In addition, if you have aspirations of being a teacher or a lawyer, you may need to reconsider as it will be difficult to get a license to practice either of these professions with a criminal background.

While you may firmly believe that a dispute with your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse is a private matter, when a dispute escalates to violence or the threat of violence, it is a criminal matter that you should take quite seriously. Even if no one was suffered an injury, you could still be convicted and face prison. While the prison time may be short, the fact that you have a criminal record will have many consequences that will make several aspects of your life more challenging. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with assault with reckless endangerment, domestic violence, assault, stalking, strangulation, menacing, and child endangerment. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of domestic violence in the following locations:

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