What is Reckless Endangerment?

In certain circumstances a person’s conduct is so extreme that it warrants criminal charges, yet that specific act is not covered under the specified criminal law statutes. For this reason, Maryland lawmakers created a special category for these crimes – reckless endangerment.

To be convicted of reckless endangerment, the State must prove that a person acted with careless disregard for the safety of others. It is not necessary for the State to provide evidence that a defendant had the intent to kill or injure. For this reason, suspects are often convicted of reckless endangerment even if a victim is not seriously injured or killed.

Examples of behaviors that are commonly associated with this statute include, but are not limited to, throwing objects off of bridge overpasses, firing guns in the air or at targets without taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of others in the area, failing to render medical assistance where a duty of care is owed to the victim and leaving guns within reach of children.

The statute also covers a very specific offense prohibiting the firing of a gun from a motor vehicle in a way that creates substantial risk of death or serious injury to a person. (Note: Law enforcement officers and security guards are exempt from this statute, if they are working in an official capacity.)

This is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other scenarios that can lead to a reckless endangerment charge. The key factor to keep in mind is that the heart of this offense is the performing of a dangerous act without regard for the safety of others. A reckless endangerment conviction is a misdemeanor in Maryland, but carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison.

For more information about the crime of reckless endangerment or your individual circumstances, contact Alperstein & Diener and speak with Christopher P. Wheatcroft, Andrew I. Alperstein or Robert H. Wolf.


The text of the statute is reproduced below to serve as an additional resource.

§3-204. Reckless endangerment.

(a)  Prohibited.- A person may not recklessly:

(1) engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another; or

(2) discharge a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another.

(b)  Penalty.- A person who violates this section is guilty of the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.

(c)  Exceptions.-

(1) Subsection (a)(1) of this section does not apply to conduct involving:

(i) the use of a motor vehicle, as defined in § 11-135 of the Transportation Article; or

(ii) the manufacture, production, or sale of a product or commodity.

(2) Subsection (a)(2) of this section does not apply to:

(i) a law enforcement officer or security guard in the performance of an official duty; or

(ii) an individual acting in defense of a crime of violence as defined in § 5-101 of the Public Safety Article.