What Happens if you are Charged with Reckless Conduct in Georgia?
In this day and age, people often act without thinking and without regard for how it could affect someone else. Further, they seldom think that their actions could actually be a crime. The offense of reckless conduct arises from people committing a dangerous act and not acting, as a reasonable person would do. Some examples of reckless behavior can include firing a gun without checking for others, leaving a young child unattended, driving a vehicle after drinking, using illegal substances in a public area, or storing weapons in areas where children can reach them. The offender does not have to act with criminal intent to harm others to be charged with Reckless Conduct in Georgia.
Georgia Law O.C.G.A. §16-5-40
A person who causes bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safety of another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his act or omission will cause harm or endanger the safety of the other person and the disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Georgia Case Law on Reckless Conduct
A suspect was convicted of reckless conduct when he fired shots through a door knowing a group of law enforcement officers was present on the other side. Beaton v. State, 255 Ga. App. 901, (2002). During the trial, the suspect argued that the evidence showed that the bullets did not come close enough to any of the victims to endanger their safety. The Court reasoned that just firing shots when he knew people were outside of the house was a disregard of the real risk that the bullet could hit any of the people and therefore, his conduct endangered everyone outside. In conclusion, the Court found the suspect guilty of reckless conduct.
A case where the accused was found not guilty of reckless conduct occurred in Corvi v. State. 296 Ga. 557, (2015). In this instance, the accused was babysitting Plaintiff's five-year-old child and her granddaughter who was also five. Defendant told both girls they were not to go swimming in the outside pool and that they were to play inside. While the girls were playing, the defendant made a personal phone call that lasted around 45 minutes. When the parents arrived back home, they found the girls in the pool, not breathing, and they were unable to be revived. Sometime when the defendant made the phone call the girls went swimming and drowned. The parents argued at trial that taking the phone call was a failure to supervise the children reasonably and was reckless. However, because the defendant told the girls they could not go swimming, she confirmed they were playing upstairs before she took the call, and there was no showing that the girls had a propensity to disobey, the Court decided the defendant was not guilty of reckless conduct.
What Has to be Proven to be Convicted of Reckless Conduct?
To be convicted of reckless conduct the State must demonstrate that the suspect is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your Attorney will work to produce gaps in the prosecutor's case and to create doubt in the mind of the jury.
The prosecutor must prove that the act taken was not one that a reasonable person would have done. The Court will analyze several factors to try and determine whether or not the defendant should have known that their conduct was dangerous. Some factors include but are not limited to the accused's age, education, mental capacities, the nature of the crime, and state of mind at the time of the offense.
Penalty for Reckless Conduct Conviction
Generally, a conviction for reckless conduct is considered a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors many times can be resolved without a trial. A knowledgeable attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to obtain the best possible outcome for you and your family.
However, there are some circumstances where a reckless conduct charge is considered a felony. If a person who is infected with HIV and who knows they are infected with HIV commits one of the following five actions, they will be guilty of a felony and shall face a penalty of no more than ten years in prison:
- Knowingly engages in sexual intercourse or performs or submits to any sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another person and the HIV infected person does not disclose to the other person the fact of that infected person's being an HIV infected person prior to that intercourse or sexual act;
- Knowingly allows another person to use a hypodermic needle, syringe, or both for the introduction of drugs or any other substance into or for the withdrawal of body fluids from the other person's body and the needle or syringe so used had been previously used by the infected person for the introduction of drugs or any other substance into or for the withdrawal of body fluids from the HIV infected person's body and where that infected person does not disclose to the other person the fact of that infected person's being an HIV infected person prior to such use;
- Offers or consents to perform with another person an act of sexual intercourse for money without disclosing to that other person the fact of that infected person's being an HIV infected person prior to offering or consenting to perform that act of sexual intercourse;
- Solicits another person to perform or submit to an act of sodomy for money without disclosing to that other person the fact of that infected person's being an HIV infected person prior to soliciting that act of sodomy; or
- Donates blood, blood products, other body fluids, or any body organ or body part without previously disclosing the fact of that infected person's being an HIV infected person to the person drawing the blood or blood products or the person or entity collection or storing the other body fluids, body organ, or body part. O.C.G.A. §16-5-40(c)
Furthermore a person who is an HIV infected person and knows that they are infected with HIV that commits an assault with the intent to transmit HIV or hepatitis using their body fluids upon a peace officer or a correctional officer while they are engaged in their duties will be subject to a penalty of prison between five and twenty years. O.C.G.A. §16-5-40(d)
In addition to serving time in prison and possibly paying a fine, a defendant could also be subject to a personal injury lawsuit from the victim. The victim could sue the defendant for damages that resulted from the crime and could include lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering, and rehabilitation.
One of the options if this is a first offense is the first offender plea. While this is a useful defense, your Lawyer will discuss whether or not it is the most beneficial to use it for a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony charge.
Defenses to Reckless Conduct
Consent: If the victim consented to the activity beforehand, then that would negate a reckless conduct charge.
Lack of knowledge that they were infected with HIV: If you had no reason to know that you were infected with HIV, and transmitted it to someone else unknowingly, then you cannot be guilty of reckless conduct. This defense will require more proof than other arguments because the State could argue that you should have known you were infected. Your Attorney will work with you to set up the best defense possible demonstrating that a reasonable person would not have known they were infected and that you exercised care.
It was not unreasonable: Because the statute outlines that there must have been a deviation for the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise, if you and your Lawyer can prove that you did not deviate, then you will not be guilty of reckless conduct.
This is not an exhaustive list of the defenses to reckless conduct. There are many more arguments that can be applied to your case. It is vital to you to discuss your unique case with one of our Georgia Reckless Conduct Attorneys to formulate the best defense possible.
What are not Defenses
I did not intend for anyone to get hurt: Intent to hurt someone is not a requirement under the statute. Consciously disregarding the risk that someone could get hurt is enough to be convicted of reckless conduct.
No one was injured: Although someone was not injured during the act, directly endangering someone is enough to be found guilty of reckless conduct.
Having knowledgeable representation is of up the utmost importance when facing a criminal charge. Your Georgia Reckless Conduct Attorney will investigate all the details surrounding your case and evaluate your options. They will be available all the time to you – even nights and weekends – because your case is important. Lawson and Berry and their team of Reckless Conduct Attorneys will work with you to fight your charge and avoid a conviction. Call today and schedule a free consultation.