What Is Reckless Endangerment in California?

In California, reckless endangerment is not considered to be a distinct crime. Someone who acts recklessly and endangers others in doing so can be charged with other crimes, however, like child endangerment, elder abuse, DUI charge with a child in the car, and reckless driving. Acts of reckless endangerment, causing a measurable risk of serious physical injury to another, can lead to other charges. Here we will examine the concept of reckless endangerment in California.

What is Reckless Endangerment?

Also known as criminal endangerment, reckless endangerment is any act that causes a measurable risk of serious physical injury to another. This act may be intentional or unintentional, not meaning to cause harm or injury to another. Reckless endangerment acts may include something like leaving a child in a locked car in high temperatures with the windows rolled up.
Reckless endangerment in itself is not a crime in California. It can result in charges being brought against someone under other statutes or laws, however.

For example, per California Vehicle Code 23572, a sentencing enhancement is provided for someone who is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and has a child under age 14 in the vehicle. The enhancement is based upon reckless endangerment of the child, and leads to the following additional penalties (tacked onto the standard DUI sentence):

  • If this is a first DUI conviction – 48 hours spent in county jail.
  • For a second DUI conviction – 10 days spent in county jail.
  • For a third DUI conviction – 30 days spent in county jail.
  • For a fourth or subsequent misdemeanor DUI conviction – 90 days spent in county jail.

What is Child Endangerment?

Violation of Calfiornia’s Penal Code 273a results in charges of child endangerment. This is reckless endangerment that leads to the endangerment of a child. Under this law:

  • Any person who…willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or willfully causes or permits the person or health of a child under their care or custody to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years.
  • Any person who… willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor. (This is if the child is not at risk of death or great bodily injury).

Acts of reckless endangerment that can lead to charges of child endangerment in California include:

  • Failing to obtain medical treatment for a child who is very ill.
  • Leaving a child with a babysitter who has a history of abusive behavior.
  • Leaving a dangerous weapon where a child can easily reach it.

What is Elder Abuse?

California Penal Code 368 is the elder abuse statute. This covers a wide variety of crimes and may apply to many different situations.
Simply stated, PC 368 says that it is a crime to neglect and abuse an elder person in California. You may not put an elder or dependent adult in a situation in which their health or life is at risk. This includes things such as withholding medication from an elder.

Violations of PC 368 may be classified as misdemeanors or felonies, depending upon the circumstances. If classified as a misdemeanor, the violator may spend up to a year in county jail and/or be required to pay a fine of $1000. If classified as a felony, the violator may be sent to state prison for two to four years.
Talk to one of our California criminal defense lawyers today if you are facing charges stemming from reckless endangerment.