If you have placed another person in harm’s way without directly injuring him or her, you could be charged with endangerment. This is a more serious charge than many defendants imagine and results from reckless behavior. Endangerment is often specific to vehicular incidents, though in many cases it is not.
What Is Endangerment?
Endangerment can be a tricky charge to decipher. Defined by A.R.S. 13-1201 as “recklessly endangering another person with a potential risk of imminent death or physical injury,” there are a number of ways endangerment can manifest.
Consider, for example, a person driving under the influence of alcohol. If the driver causes a car crash by hitting another car, he or she may be charged with endangering passengers and the driver of the other vehicle, regardless of whether he or she actually caused any injuries.
Another example is shooting a firearm into the air to celebrate a holiday. If the bullet comes down from a substantial height, it could cause severe injury or death. Unless the bullet physically strikes a person, this act has no victim; but it still qualifies as endangerment.
However, a victim need not be present for an endangerment charge. Furthermore, it is not required to prove the accused had any intent to hurt another person. Instead, prosecutors need to prove solely that the accused individual was fully aware that his or her actions could cause serious harm.
Certain types of endangerment are classified as misdemeanors, while others are decidedly felonies. Endangerment involving a high risk of imminent death, also called dangerous endangerment, is a class 6 felony in Arizona. Dangerous endangerment specifically involves discharge, use, or threatening display of a dangerous instrument, such as a firearm.
“Recklessness” is not an arbitrary charge; rather, it refers to an individual’s full awareness that he or she is putting others in danger of imminent death. The risk must be severe and fully unjustified to validate these charges.
Individuals convicted of reckless or dangerous endangerment may serve up to 18 months in prison, in addition to other charges, such as accusations of negligence or DUI.
Most other charges of endangerment – that is, those in which the other party is not at risk for imminent death – are filed as class 1 misdemeanors. With a class 1 misdemeanor, you may be required to pay up to $2,500 in fines and serve up to 6 months in jail. While a misdemeanor charge is not as serious as a felony charge and won’t result in a prison sentence, they should not be taken lightly.
What to Do
If you’ve been charged with a class 1 misdemeanor or class 6 felony of endangerment, contact an experienced Arizona attorney for assistance. If you are arrested and your rights are not explicitly stated, you may have a strong case against this charge. In addition, a prosecutor has to prove each component of the case beyond reasonable doubt – that is, any doubt that couldn’t exist beyond a far-fetched scenario.
The Stewart Law Group can help you build a case against the often vague and confusing charges of endangerment. We have experience in Phoenix reckless endangerment cases from all sides of the legal world – including the side of the prosecutor. We’re well equipped to provide expert counsel for your endangerment case, so don’t hesitate to contact us today for a Free consultation.