When an individual is reckless in the context of personal injury, that individual knew or should have known that their conduct would be likely to cause harm. This level of liability is greater than that of negligence. Negligence is the failure to recognize reasonable care which results in injury to another individual.
When an individual is reckless, they knowingly take a risk that their actions will result in harm to the plaintiff, or individual who was injured or harmed. It is important to note, however, that recklessness carries a lower level of liability than intentional conduct.
Reckless conduct may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. If the charge is a misdemeanor, the punishment may include criminal fines and jail time of less than one year.
In more serious cases of reckless conduct where a defendant exhibits reckless disregard for human life, the felony charge may result in a much heftier fine, a lengthy prison term, and probation once the defendant is released from prison.
Reckless conduct is common in the context of drunk driving cases as well as automobile accidents. If an individual drives a vehicle when their blood alcohol level is over the legal limit and has an accident which injures a passenger, the driver’s decision to drive while intoxicated rises above common negligence to reckless conduct. It is also important to note that if a defendant has multiple DUI convictions and they decide to drive while intoxicated, that reckless conduct can result in additional criminal charges.
Reckless driving, however, is not limited to cases involving drunk driving. It can also occur even when the driver is sober. An example of this would be if a driver jumped a curb and drove down a busy sidewalk.
What is Criminal Recklessness?
Recklessness in a criminal context, or criminal recklessness, refers to the state of mind of the defendant, or individual who caused the injury or harm, at the time they committed the crime. Therefore, in order for a defendant to be found criminally reckless, that individual must be aware of and foresee the risks which are involved with a particular act.
In addition, a reckless defendant makes a conscious decision to disregard the risks which are associated with their conduct and they proceed to engage in that conduct regardless of the risk. Due to the unwanted dangers which are presented to other individuals, many state laws and statutes prohibit and, in some cases, criminalize reckless conduct.
There are several common examples of conduct which could be considered reckless, including:
- Drinking and driving, or DUI/DWI;
- Driving at dangerously high speeds in a residential neighborhood, or an area where there are several pedestrians;
- Using illegal substances in a public area;
- Carrying a concealed weapon without the proper permit;
- Storing weapons, toxic substances, or other dangerous items in areas where children may be able to get to them, such as child endangerment;
- Knowingly engaging in unprotected sexual activities when the individual knows that they have a sexually transmitted disease;
- Illegal use of fireworks; and
- Engaging in rough play or sports in inappropriate settings, such as inside a store.
In a case involving reckless behavior, the main factor is that a defendant had knowledge that their conduct was, in fact, dangerous to those around them. If a defendant was unaware of that fact, a court will consider whether or not the defendant should have known that their conduct was dangerous.
An example of criminal recklessness is when an individual speeds down a residential street knowing that there are often pedestrians exercising. This behavior presents a risk of hitting a pedestrian with a vehicle.
What Are the Elements for Proving Recklessness?
In order to prove that a defendant did engage in recklessness, a plaintiff or the prosecution will generally be required to prove the following elements:
- The defendant intended to commit the act in question;
- The defendant was aware that such actions would pose a risk of harm;
- The risk of harm is in itself unreasonable, and greater than negligent action; and
- The defendant knew, or had reason to know, that other individuals could be present and directly in harm’s way.
The specific requirements for this charge may vary by state. In addition, it is important to note that recklessness differs from intentional harm in several ways, as previously discussed.
The most significant difference between the two is that in a case of recklessness, a defendant may not have intended to cause the harm which resulted from their conduct, although they were aware of the dangerous risks. In a case of intentional harm, a defendant actually intended for the other individual to be harmed or injured by their conduct.
What is the Law Regarding Criminal Recklessness in Texas?
In the State of Texas, there are laws governing criminal recklessness. In Texas, criminal recklessness is illegal. It has been made illegal pursuant to the laws prohibiting deadly conduct.
Reckless conduct in Texas is defined as the conscious disregard of the risk created by the defendant’s conduct. It is important to note that mere stupidity, irresponsibility, thoughtlessness, ordinary carelessness, or lack of foresight do not constitute criminal recklessness, no matter how severe the consequences.
How Does Texas Define Deadly Conduct?
A defendant commits deadly conduct in Texas when they recklessly engage in conduct which places an individual in imminent danger of serious bodily harm. An individual may be charged with this offense if they knowingly discharge a firearm at one or more individuals in a residence, vehicle, or building.
How is Serious Bodily Harm Defined in Texas?
In Texas, serious bodily harm, also known as serious bodily injury, is a term which is used to distinguish different types of injuries. If an individual suffers serious bodily injury, they have suffered an injury or injuries which are long-lasting or permanent.
These types of injuries may include:
- Loss of limbs;
- Spine, head, or neck injuries;
- Serious cuts;
- Serious burns;
- Paralysis; and
- Serious disfigurement.
What if I Shot My Gun in Someone’s Direction, but Not at Them?
In Texas, recklessness and danger are presumed if the individual knowingly points a firearm in the general direction of the other individual. It is not required that the firearm be pointed directly at the intended victim. In addition, it does not matter whether or not the firearm was loaded.
What is the Punishment for a Deadly Conduct Conviction?
In Texas, deadly conduct is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by:
- Up to one year in county jail;
- A $4,000 criminal fine; or
- Both a criminal fine and county jail time.
Should I Contact a Lawyer about My Deadly Conduct Charge?
It is essential to have the assistance of a Texas criminal defense lawyer if you are facing a deadly conduct charge. If you have been charged with deadly conduct, you are facing jail time as well as a hefty criminal fine.
Reckless conduct is taken very seriously by the courts. This is because public policy strongly discourages an individual putting innocent bystanders in harm’s way.
Your attorney can advise you regarding Texas laws and what defenses may be available in your case. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a lesser charge in your case or a plea bargain.