In the context of personal injury, when a person is reckless, they knew or should have acknowledged that their conduct would likely cause harm to someone else. This is a greater level of liability when compared to negligence, which is the failure to exercise a level of reasonable care resulting in the injury of another person. In terms of recklessness, the person knowingly takes a risk that their actions will result in harm to the plaintiff; however, recklessness is still considered to be a lesser level of liability than intentional conduct.
Criminal recklessness refers to the defendant’s state of mind at the time that the crime was committed. As such, in order for a person to be found criminally reckless, they must know and foresee the risks involved with a particular act. Additionally, they must make a conscious decision to disregard the risks associated with the action, and proceed regardless of the risk. Because of the dangers presented to other people, many state laws and statutes prohibit or criminalize reckless conduct.
Some of the most common examples of what could be considered reckless would include, but may not be limited to:
- Drinking and driving, or DUI/DWI;
- Driving at dangerously high speeds in a residential neighborhood, or in an area in which there are several pedestrians;
- Using illegal substances in a public area;
- Carrying a concealed weapon without a proper license to do so;
- Storing weapons, toxic substances, or other dangerous items in areas in which children may access them;
- Knowingly engaging in unprotected sexual activities when aware that they have a sexually transmitted disease;
- The illegal use of fireworks; and
- Engaging in rough play or sports in inappropriate settings, such as a store.
The main factor in any recklessness claim is that the defendant had knowledge that their conduct was dangerous to those around them. If the defendant was actually unaware of this fact, the court must consider whether the defendant should have known that their actions were dangerous.
It is important to note that state laws differ in terms of what constitutes reckless endangerment. The charge of reckless endangerment is sufficiently broad in order to cover a range of conduct that poses a sufficient risk to another person’s safety, as such that the law finds this behavior reckless.
Reckless disregard involves a person knowing that they are placing another individual or people in danger with their actions or failure to act. However, they do not care that harm may come to those individuals by engaging in the specific act or omission.
How Is Reckless Endangerment Defined In Georgia?
Georgia Law O.C.G.A. §16-5-60 states that: “A person who causes bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safety of another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his act or omission will cause harm or endanger the safety of the other person and the disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Simply put, a person in Georgia can be charged with this crime when they:
- Cause bodily harm to another person, or place that person at risk of bodily harm; and
- Consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that their act, or failure to act, will cause harm to or endanger the safety of the other person.
The perpetrator’s disregard must constitute a “gross deviation” from what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation. Gross deviation is a defining factor in criminal negligence cases, and means that the person’s conduct was so far removed from what a reasonable, ordinary person would do that the conduct is considered to be criminal. Their action, or lack thereof, placed other people at risk for harm. Or, their action or lack thereof showed a general disregard for human life.
Here, bodily harm is defined as any physical injury that interferes with a person’s physical comfort or health. Another way to define the term is a long-lasting or permanent injury. Some common examples of bodily harm include, but may not be limited to:
- The loss of limbs;
- Permanent scarring; and/or
- Neck, spine, or head injuries.
What Are The Penalties For Reckless Endangerment In Georgia?
Whether reckless endangerment is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the specific facts of the case. Generally speaking, when there is a weapon involved, the crime becomes a felony; the same is true depending on who the victim is. An example of this would be when a child is involved.
Some states may charge the crime as a misdemeanor, when the same behavior under the same set of facts would be a felony charge in another state. It is important to note that in some states, even if it is a misdemeanor charge, the state may impose penalties that are comparable to those of a felony conviction.
In addition to criminal penalties, those who violate reckless endangerment laws may face civil penalties as well. Plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits, such as those involving recklessness, are most commonly awarded compensatory damages. These damages may be general, which are dependant upon:
- The severity of the injuries;
- Pain and suffering;
- Future medical prognosis; and
- Any pre-existing injuries.
These damages may also be specific, which compensate for quantifiable monetary loss resulting from the injury. They are intended to cover past and future lost wages, medical bills, and other associated costs. In order to determine a specific damages award, the court will consider:
- The amount of medical bills;
- How the injuries have affected the plaintiff’s ability to work; and
- How the injuries have affected the plaintiff’s lifestyle.
Additionally, those who would generally be granted immunity may not be immune from a recklessness charge. An example of this would be how healthcare professionals would usually be immune to a negligence lawsuit. They could still be held liable if they are found to be reckless.
What Are Some Penalties That Are Specific To Georgia?
In Georgia, if a person has HIV and is aware of the fact commits one of the following five actions, they will be guilty of a felony and will face a penalty of up to ten years in prison:
- Knowingly engages in sexual intercourse, or performs or submits to any sexual act, and does not disclose their HIV status to the other person prior to that intercourse or sexual act;
- Knowingly allows another person to use a hypodermic needle, syringe, or both for the introduction of drugs or any other substance into or for the withdrawal of body fluids from the HIV positive person’s body into another’s, and does not disclose their status to the other person prior to such use;
- Offers or consents to perform with another person an act of sexual intercourse for money without disclosing their HIV status to that other person prior to offering or consenting to perform that act of sexual intercourse;
- Solicits another person to perform or submit to an act of sodomy for money, without disclosing their status to that other person prior to soliciting that act of sodomy; and/or
- Donates blood, blood products, other body fluids, or any body organ or body part without previously disclosing their HIV status to the person who is drawing or collecting the specimen.
If a person who is HIV positive and is aware of their status commits an assault with the intent to transmit HIV or hepatitis using their body fluids upon a peace officer or a correctional officer, while they are engaged in their duties, will be subject to a penalty of prison between five and twenty years. Please note this is all pursuant to Georgia law, specifically O.C.G.A. §16-5-60(d).
Do I Need An Attorney For Reckless Conduct Causing Harm Or Endangering Bodily Safety In Georgia?
If you are facing reckless endangerment charges in Georgia, you will need to consult with an experienced Georgia criminal lawyer immediately. An attorney will be able to provide you with the best legal advice regarding your legal defenses and options under Georgia law.
Additionally, a criminal defense lawyer will also be able to represent you in court, as needed. Your attorney will protect your rights, and may be able to get your charges reduced.