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New York Reckless Endangerment and a Police Chase

Police chases are extremely dangerous. Those who try to evade capture by driving at high speeds and without regard to other traffic laws not only risk their own lives, but the lives of other drivers, police officers, bikers, and pedestrians. Even if you manage to avoid hurting or killing anyone, if you are involved in a high speed police chase you will face a reckless endangerment charge. Reckless endangerment is a criminal offense that makes it illegal to act in a way that puts others in danger even if that was not your intent. The goal of driving recklessly during a police chase is typically to avoid arrest and not to injure a bystander. However, this is irrelevant. Actions are considered reckless if those actions were committed without thought of consequence or outcomes. While a reckless endangerment charge does not require anyone to suffer an injury, it does require others to be placed in danger of suffering a serious physical injury. If you have been charged with reckless endangerment based on a police chase you should immediately contact an experienced New York Reckless Endangerment and a Police Chase Lawyer who will carefully review the facts of your case and aggressively defend you from the beginning of your case until it is resolved.

Reckless Endangerment and a Police Chase Charge

The reckless endangerment charge that you are likely to face if you drive recklessly in an attempt to evade the police is reckless endangerment in the first degree. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.25.

You will face this charge if you recklessly engage in conduct that creates a grave risk of death to another person under circumstances which evince a depraved indifference to human life. It is a Class D felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.25. New York courts have interpreted the phrase "depraved indifference to human life" to mean "an utter disregard for the value of human life— a willingness to act not because one intends harm, but because one simply doesn't care whether grievous harm results or not." New York criminal courts have consistently held that driving recklessly and high speeds in an effort to evade arrest is behavior that qualifies as depraved indifference to human life.

For example, in People v. Goldstein, 12 N.Y.3d 295 (2009) defendant Joseph Goldstein was driving with a suspended license when he was stopped by the police for failing to stop at a stop sign. When the police officer asked for his license, Goldstein sped away. He drove at a high speed through a construction zone, causing 2 construction works to jump out of the way in order to avoid Goldstein. As a result Goldstein was convicted of reckless endangerment in the first degree. Similarly, in People v. Walker, 258 A.D.2d 541 (1999), defendant Milton Walker was convicted of reckless endangerment in the first degree after leading police on a high speed chase. Walker drove at speeds of 80-100 mph towards oncoming traffic, through stops and through red lights.

In People v. Parks, 281 A.D.2d 217 (2001), even though the street defendant Maceo Parks drove on was deserted, the court found Parks' actions so dangerous that it upheld his conviction of reckless endangerment in the first degree. In an effort to evade arrest, Parks drove at a speed of 50 mph on a sidewalk, hitting a wall of a building, telephone booths, and newspaper vending machines in the process. He ultimately crashed into a telephone pole.

Defense to Reckless Endangerment Charge

While leading a police on a high speed chase will generally lead to a charge of reckless endangerment in the first degree if during the police chase your actions do not amount to a depraved indifference to human life, you have a valid defense. For example, in People v. Brinson, 827 N.Y.S.2d 51 (2007) the defendant Neal Brinson led the police on a brief chase, driving at a high speed through an empty street and trying to force his way through traffic at a low rate of speed. He was convicted of reckless endangerment in the first degree. On appeal, however, Brinson argued that while he did lead the police on a chase, it was a brief chase. The street he drove on at a high speed was deserted. When he encountered traffic he slowed down and beeped to try to get through the traffic. The court was convinced by Brinson's arguments and reduced the charge to reckless endangerment in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you do not encounter any other cars or bystanders during the high speed chase the court may still concluded that your actions amounted to depraved indifferent and convicted you of reckless endangerment in the first degree. This is what happened in the case of People v. Parks.

Consequences of a Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree Conviction

If you are convicted of reckless endangerment your punishment may include jail, probation, a fine and restitution.


Reckless endangerment in the first degree is a Class D felony. The maximum possible sentence is 7 years in prison. N.Y. Pen. Law § 70.02. Because reckless endangerment in the first degree is also classified as a violent felony, the judge is required to impose a minimum sentence of 2 years in prison. Your sentence will be determinate, meaning that it will be a set period of years and not a range of years. The actual length of your prison sentence will depend on how you are classified based on your prior criminal record as follows:

  • Prior convictions: Prior convictions include felony convictions within the last 10 years.
  • Non-Violent Predicate: A non-violent felony conviction within the last 10 years.
  • Violent Predicate: A violent felony conviction within the last 10 years.
  • Persistent Felony Offender: At least 2 prior felony convictions.

Even if you have no prior felony convictions the minimum prison sentence you will receive is 2 years. The court will not have the option of sentencing you to no prison time. If your status is that of a non-violent predicate offender, then the court will sentence you to at least 3 years for an assault in the second degree conviction, while if you are a violent predicate offender, you will be sentenced to at least 5 years in prison. If you are a persistent felony offender, then the minimum sentence you will receive is 12-25 years in prison; the maximum sentence is life in prison. N.Y. Pen. Law § 70.08. Upon release you will be required to serve a term of post-release supervision.

Post-Release Supervision

If convicted of reckless endangerment in the first degree part of your sentence will also include a term of post-release supervision of 1.5-3 years. N.Y. Pen. Law § 70.45(e). There will be several rules that you must follow while you are on post-release supervision. Such rules vary from person to person based on what the Department of Corrections determines is needed to ensure a smooth, crime-free transition from prison back into the community. Such rules may include that:

  • You must not commit a crime
  • You must not associate with other people who you know have criminal records
  • You must not patronize disreputable places
  • You must not possess a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia
  • You must consent to warrantless searches
  • You must submit to home visits by your Parole Officer
  • You must regularly report to your Parole Officer
  • You cannot leave the State of New York without permission
  • You must now own, possess or purchase a gun
  • You must refrain from consuming alcohol
  • You must submit to drug testing
  • You must stick to a curfew
  • You must have job

If you violate any of the terms of your post-release supervision you will receive a revocation hearing. If the judge concludes that you violated the terms of your post-release supervision the judge may order you back to prison to complete your original sentence plus additional time for violating your post-release supervision.

Fines, Fees and Restitution

As part of your sentence the judge may order you to pay a fine and restitution. For reckless endangerment in the first degree the fine would be up to $5,000. Restitution is paid to the victim to cover out-of-pocket expenses that result from a crime. Generally, the maximum amount of restitution is $15,000, plus a 5% surcharge. N.Y. Pen. Law § 60.27

You will be required to pay fees. One $300 fee is referred to as a "mandatory surcharge." You may also be required to pay a victim assistance fee of $25. N.Y. Pen. Law § 60.35. If you are placed on probation, you will have pay probation supervision fees of $30 per month.

You will not have completed your sentence until you have paid the fine and restitution that the court has ordered as part of your sentence. Furthermore, if you fail to pay a fine, fee or restitution you may be charged with a misdemeanor and sent to prison. The state can also seek to satisfy your debt by taking money from your prison account or by garnishing your wages. The law does allow you to petition the court for a reduction in the amount of fines and restitution you are required to pay, or to issue a modified payment schedule.

Additional Criminal Charges

If you are convicted of reckless endangerment in the first degree based on a police chase there is a good chance that you will face additional criminal charges. For example, you may be charged with criminal possession of stolen property, assault, and unauthorized use of a vehicle. If you are convicted of any criminal charge in addition to reckless endangerment if the first degree your sentence will reflect that and will be more severe.

Plea Agreement

As part of the criminal process the prosecutor may offer you the option of pleading guilty in exchange for a reduced charge or a lighter sentence than you would receive if you are found guilty after a trial. This commonly referred to as a plea bargain. For example, the prosecutor may agree to reduce the charge to reckless endangerment in the second degree, a misdemeanor. However, if you do plead guilty to a lesser charge that will still mean that you will have been convicted of a crime and there will be consequences such as fees, fines, restitution, incarceration and a criminal record. The advantage of agreeing to a plea bargain is that you will not risk being found guilty of the original, more serious charges after a trial and then face a stiffer sentence.

Long-Term Consequences

If you are convicted of reckless endangerment in the first degree in addition to the sentence that the judge hands you, you will end up with a criminal record which will negatively impact several aspects of your life such as getting a job. In fact, you will be barred from working in certain professions that require licensing such as being a teacher, a lawyer, security guard, and driving a cab. In addition, you will not be able to own a gun, serve in the military, or serve on juries. You will also not be able to receive certain government benefits such as welfare or federally funded housing. If you are not a citizen of the United States federal law may require that you be deported.

The consequences of a conviction related to leading the police on a high-speed chase are serious and long-lasting. If you are convicted of reckless endangerment in the first degree there is a chance that you will end up in prison. You may be ordered to pay significant fines and restitution. You will have a criminal record that may limit professional opportunities. Because of the consequences of being convicted of reckless endangerment it is important to have experienced representation. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with reckless endangerment in the first degree as well as other crimes such as grand larceny, robbery, assault, harassment, menacing, stalking, and child endangerment. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of robbery in the following locations:

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