What Is Reckless Endangerment in Tennessee?

What is Reckless EndangermentIf you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence, or DUI, in the State of Tennessee you are undoubtedly concerned about the outcome of your case. As you are likely aware, the long-term negative consequences of a DUI conviction can be serious. You may have heard that pleading to “Reckless Endangerment” instead of driving under the influence may be an option; however, what is reckless endangerment in Tennessee and would it really be a better option?

First, it is important to note that in any criminal prosecution it is the unique facts and circumstances of the case that are used to determine what is in your best interest. As such, consulting with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney is highly advisable. In the meantime, however, it may be beneficial to learn a bit more about the offense of “reckless endangerment.”

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Tennessee Code 39-13-103 is where the offense of reckless endangerment can be found, reading as follows:

(a) A person commits an offense who recklessly engages in conduct that places or may place another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.(b) Reckless endangerment is a Class A misdemeanor; however, reckless endangerment committed with a deadly weapon is a Class E felony.In order to understand what a prosecutor must prove to convict you of reckless endangerment it helps to pull out the elements of the crime as follows:

  • Recklessly engages in conduct
  • that places or may place another person
  • Imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury

To further understand the offense we have to know what is meant by “recklessly.” In legal terms, the word “reckless” means that a person was “aware of, but consciously disregarded, a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his conduct would place another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.”

As you will also note, reckless endangerment can be a Class A misdemeanor OR a Class E felony if the endangerment was committed with a deadly weapon. A vehicle can be considered a deadly weapon for purposes of aggravating the charge to a felony. As a misdemeanor, reckless endangerment only carries up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500 if convicted whereas a Class E felony carries a possible prison term of up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

The real benefit to pleading to reckless endangerment is often found in the non-judicial consequences of a conviction. Sometimes, you can avoid things such as a lengthy license suspension, disciplinary action for a professional license, and/or negative employment repercussions with a conviction for reckless endangerment instead of one for driving under the influence.

If you have been charged with DUI or reckless endangerment in Tennessee it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Dinah Michael