Maryland defines the crime of Reckless Endangerment under § 3-204 of Title 3 of its criminal law. Under this section, the law provides that a person may not recklessly engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person or persons. Immediately following this very general language, Maryland law prohibits some very specific behavior by specifying that a person may not discharge a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another. The statute goes on to provide maximum possible penalties under the Maryland statute: “a person who violates this section of the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment and on a conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000.00 or both.”
Conduct excluded under Maryland Reckless Endangerment law
Immediately following the sentencing language contained in the statute, Maryland law provides that there are certain types of conduct that cannot be charged as Reckless Endangerment. Included in this category of activities is the use of a motor vehicle, or the making or sale of any product or commodity. This means that no matter how badly someone drives, that person cannot be charged with Reckless Endangerment. Furthermore, Reckless Endangerment is not the appropriate charge in cases where someone has either invented something, created something, or sold something that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to a person or persons. There are other laws on the books that can be charged in any of these excluded situations.
What is substantial risk of death or serious physical injury under Maryland law?
It’s important to note that Maryland’s Reckless Endangerment law applies only when the defendant’s actions have created a risk of death or serious physical injury to another person or persons. What is “a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury”? This is covered in a nearby section of the Maryland Code. According to § 3-201, a “serious physical injury” is an injury that either creates a substantial risk of death, or causes permanent or protracted and serious disfigurement, loss of a bodily member or an organ, or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. In situations where a defendant’s actions created a risk of minor scrapes, nicks, bumps, or bruises, Reckless Endangerment is not the appropriate charge. While possible actions that could create this kind of risk are certainly too numerous to list, it may be a convenient shortcut to think of them as requiring the defendant to have used some kind of a weapon or dangerous device. In practice, most Reckless Endangerment cases involve the use of guns, knives, or other weapons.
Maryland Reckless Endangerment Law applies even when no one is injured.
Keep in mind that, under Maryland law, the victim or victims of Reckless Endangerment need not actually be injured in order for the defendant to be convicted under the statute. Instead of requiring that someone be injured, the law provides that if the defendant’s action creates a situation in which there is a significant chance that someone might be seriously hurt, then the defendant is guilty of Reckless Endangerment. In general, this charge is often brought against defendants who brandished weapons or who almost committed an assault. Reckless Endangerment is frequently charged along with Assault and other, more serious crimes against people.
Matthew Baum is a criminal defense attorney with offices in Baltimore, Catonsville, and Columbia, Maryland. He can be reached at (410) 375-6670. New client consultations are free of charge and involve no obligation.