The Difference Between Reckless Endangerment and Reckless Driving

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Earlier this year, a driver in Brooklyn swerved to get around another car, hopped the curb, and struck a teen boy. The driver, Guo Lu, was charged with reckless endangerment, a serious misdemeanor. Given that he was behind the wheel at the time, Lu could have been charged with reckless driving instead. What’s the difference? When would a driver be charged with reckless endangerment instead of reckless driving?

While both charges are serious crimes that can result in a permanent criminal record, reckless endangerment is broader and can apply in situations that do not involve being behind the wheel. Any action that creates the risk of serious harm, injury, or death can result in a reckless endangerment charge, including setting someone on fire or brandishing a weapon. Reckless driving, on the other hand, is generally issued as a traffic ticket. The charge applies only when the danger is caused by behavior behind the wheel, such as driving on the sidewalk or going the wrong way on a highway.

So why are some drivers, like Lu, charged with reckless endangerment instead of reckless driving? It may have to do with the severity of the incident. While both charges are misdemeanors, reckless endangerment carries a harsher sentence. A conviction can result in up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. In situations where a person acts with depraved indifference to human life, reckless endangerment can be charged as a felony and will result in up to seven years in prison and a $150,000 fine.

A reckless driving conviction, however, carries a sentence of up to 30 days plus fines of up to $400 for a first offense. However, while the criminal consequences may be less severe for reckless driving, a conviction can substantially impact your driving record, resulting in at least five points on your license and increasing your auto insurance premiums tremendously.

If you or a loved one has been charged with any other traffic related offense in New York you need a skilled attorney to help minimize the serious consequences you may face. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are experienced criminal defense and traffic attorneys who will fight vigorously to ensure your legal rights are protected. Call 888-203-2619 or email the Rosenblum Law Firm for a free consultation about your case today.

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