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Driving Offenses

Driving To Endanger

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The following is not legal advice but is for information only. Legal advice is when an attorney applies the law to a person's individual circumstances and advises them on their legal options or potential exposure to legal harm, which a web page clearly does not.

Driving to Endanger is a criminal offense that is also vague. There is an argument that this vagueness is constitutionally problematic.

 

A person commits the offense if, with criminal negligence, that person drives a motor vehicle in any place in a manner that endangers the property of another - or a person, including the operator or passenger in the vehicle being driven. In other words, you can be charged with endangering yourself if the person is driving as well as others. It is rather sweet of the government to be concerned enough to charge someone with a criminal offense for endangering only yourself.

 

A person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a result (in this case endangering) of the person's conduct when the person fails to be aware of a risk that their conduct will cause the result, when the person fails to be aware of a risk, and that failure must involve a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a fictional ‘reasonable and prudent person’ would observe in the same situation. That’s quite a lot to take in, but any attorney will be able to explain it as it relates to a particular set of facts. In an abstract way, it is quite a difficult concept to grasp. Negligence is the lowest standard of intent in criminal law.

 

The offense of driving to endanger is normally a class E misdemeanor, which has a maximum sentence of 364 days of imprisonment (jail if less than nine months and prison if more than nine months) and a maximum fine of $2,000. There is also a mandatory minimum license suspension of 30 days but not more than 180 days. That minimum cannot be suspended. It will be imposed civilly if not part of a criminal sentence.

 

There are circumstances in which the penalty is enhanced for the offense which make it aggravated driving to endanger and a class C felony - bringing a potential (maximum) five-year prison sentence and $5,000 fine. For this felony to apply, ‘seriously bodily injury’ must be the result of driving to endanger - to the driver or someone else. That is also defined in statute as an injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or loss or substantial impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or extended convalescence necessary for recovery of physical health.  This last part is often where people are ensnared. There is no permanent injury, but there is ‘extended’ recovery time to recover.

 

For a felony offense of aggravated driving to endanger, a license suspension is for a minimum of 180 days (effectively six months) but not longer than two years. Again, that minimum will be imposed civilly if not imposed as part of the criminal case. There is also a mandatory minimum fine is $575, which may not be suspended by the court.

Driving to endanger is often used as an alternative charge to operating under the influence in plea bargains.

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