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NY Penal Law § 120.25: Reckless endangerment in the first degree

NY Penal Law § 120.25: Reckless endangerment in the first degree

If you behave in a manner that shows that you have no regard for human life, you could face a felony reckless endangerment in the first degree charge. It does not matter if no one was actually injured. In order to be charged and convicted of reckless endangerment, the prosecutor needs only to bring evidence to demonstrate that your actions place other people at risk. Reckless endangerment in the first degree is one of two reckless endangerment offenses in the New York criminal code. It is the more serious of the two charges, compared to reckless endangerment in the second degree, which is a misdemeanor offense.   You could be prosecuted under New York Penal Code § 120.25 if you recklessly engage in actions that creates a grave risk of death to another person under circumstances which evince a depraved indifference to human life. Over time, New York courts have interpreted the phrase “depraved indifference to human life” to mean “an utter disregard for the value of human life— a willingness to act not because one intends harm, but because one simply doesn’t care whether grievous harm results or not.”



In People v. McGee, 930 N.Y.S.2d 117 (2011), the defendant, Mr. Demetrius McGee and his co-defendant drove around a residential neighborhood  in search of a particular person with the intention of shooting that person. In the course of attempting to shoot this person, the shots they fired landed at several residences. At the time, there were several children at play in front of these homes. As a result, Mr. McGee was convicted of the crime of reckless endangerment in the first degree.


Related Offenses

Reckless endangerment in the second degree: NY Penal Law § 120.20

Assault in the second degree: New York Penal Code § 120.05

Stalking in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 120.60


Possible Defenses

In order for a prosecuting attorney to successfully prosecute you on a charge of reckless endangerment in the first degree, the prosecutor must demonstrate that your behaviour did, in actuality, put others in danger. If it simply appeared to the police and others that your actions put people in danger, but a closer examination of the facts reveals that your actions really could not have hurt anyone, then you may have a sound defense.  The name for this kind of defense is  “factual impossibility”.



Reckless endangerment in the first degree is categorized as a class D felony. The maximum possible sentence you could face for this crime is 7 years in prison. The final determination on the length of your prison sentence will depend on factors such as your prior criminal record, whether you take responsibility for your actions, and the facts surrounding your case. If you have no prior felony convictions, then the judge has a choice to send you to jail or to just sentence you to probation. If, on the other hand, you do have one or more prior felony convictions, the judge will sentence you to serve time in prison.

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