What You Need to Know About the Crime of Criminal Recklessness!
Normally, incidents ranging from an auto accident to throwing a rock and hurting someone are civil matters. As a result, you may sue or be sued in civil court under a tort theory. Sometimes negligent acts are covered by auto or homeowner’s insurance coverage and sometimes not. However, at some indeterminate point, negligent acts cross the line and become criminal matters. Do you know where this line is at, and when your actions may be criminal, namely the crime of criminal recklessness?1 You should, unless you want to wind up with a criminal record and land in jail. The crime of “criminal recklessness” is the topic of this blog post.
So, just beyond the line of negligence, such as being an inattentive driver and hitting another car and injuring its occupant (such as often occurs when driving and texting), your acts may become reckless, knowing, or intentional and create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person. This is criminal. For instance, if you get behind the wheel while intoxicated and hit and injure another motorist, you may be charged with DUI and criminal recklessness, as well as being sued in civil court. You had this accident because of your reckless, knowing, or intentional act of getting behind the wheel and driving drunk. This comparison and contrast best highlights this invisible line. Don’t cross it. Know it.
Further, unlike a general tort case and a civil lawsuit from negligent behavior causing injury, performing the mere act, such as throwing a rock from your yard into the neighboring school playground, is (or could be) the misdemeanor crime of criminal recklessness--even where it does not injure anyone. It is reckless and might injure someone. This is enough for a criminal arrest and charge. Such reckless behavior may be an enhanced criminal act—a higher felony level of criminal recklessness—if it is committed while armed with a deadly weapon or is aggressive driving that results in serious bodily injury to another person. The aggressive driving and injury speak for itself.
However, many citizens do not understand that a deadly weapon can be most almost anything, depending on how it is used. A chunk of asphalt, a car, or a firearm may be a deadly weapon. Common and reoccurring factual scenarios that may result in a criminal recklessness charge are firing a warning shot to ward someone off to firing a round from the thought-to-be “unloaded” gun, particularly where the bullet leaves the home or structure. Many times the precipitating event is cleaning a gun by pulling the trigger to take it apart or installing some accessory. Another recent trend is pulling a gun on a neighbor over a dispute at the property line. This is likely to be charged as a felony criminal recklessness.
The level of felony rises again if the discharge of the gun is such that the bullet enters into an inhabited building or other places where people are likely to gather. With aggressive driving too, the level of felony rises if it results in the death of another person in another car or walking on the street. There are other related crimes, such as pointing a firearm, that may be charged as well.
There may well be a legally valid excuse (criminal defense) to prevent you from being charged or convicted. As any criminal defense counsel will tell you, there are at least two sides to every story. For instance, what if the firearm is defective and fires (sometimes called a slam fire) and sends a bullet soaring into someone else’s house? You have a defense!
But if you have made a police statement and leave out key details, you are welded to this story; later changing it by adding details and facts is taken as a sign of untruthfulness. The thinking is if it happened, you certainly would have told it to the police.
The harsh reality is far different; the chemical reaction triggered in the brain during such a stressful event causes the release of certain chemicals that inhibit or prohibit an accurate memory at the time. And there is a great human desire to explain, so potential criminal defenses are impaired by omitted or incomplete facts. The legal moral to the story is to shut up and lawyer up; and no matter what you are told or how bad it looks, don’t give a statement: This may mean the difference between guilt and innocence.
There will be a time to carefully walk through the facts for a defense, but at the time of the potentially criminally reckless act is not the time. Think you can talk your way out of it. Think again. Remember anything you say can and will be used against you. The same applies to what you don’t say if you do make a statement. Your words (or lack thereof) may result in your conviction. Don’t do it.
This blog post on criminal recklessness is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle criminal defense and weapons charges throughout the State of Indiana. This blog is intended to provide general information. It is not a solicitation for legal services or intended to provide legal advice. It is an advertisement.