The crime of reckless conduct is based on a notoriously vague statute in Maine that could be used to criminalize almost anything. As a result, police frequently use reckless conduct as an excuse to arrest someone that they want to get off the streets, even if they do not have probable cause to believe that a real crime has been committed.
Defending against an allegation of reckless conduct is crucial, though, because the penalties are not small and the costs of having a criminal past should not be overlooked. The criminal defense attorneys at WTB Law can help you invoke your rights and fight the charge in court to protect your future.
What is Reckless Conduct in Maine?
According to 17-A Maine Statute § 211, reckless conduct is anything that “recklessly creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person.”
Needless to say, this can theoretically cover just about anything, including plenty of everyday activities that are perfectly legal, like driving a car.
The chief element to the offense is the idea of doing something recklessly. 17-A Maine Statute § 35(3) defines recklessness as a conscious disregard that conduct will produce a certain result or a conscious disregard for what is going on.
Substantial Risk of Serious Bodily Harm
The other element in the offense is the risk of harm that it creates. The potential harm has to be serious, not trivial, and the odds that it happening can't be remote.
Reckless Conduct and Domestic Violence
Many allegations of reckless conduct happen in the context of domestic violence. If the alleged victim is a member of the defendant's “family or household,” then the criminal charge becomes one of domestic violence reckless conduct under 17-A Maine Statute § 211-A. Convictions for domestic violence reckless conduct come with additional penalties.
Aggravated Reckless Conduct
Reckless conduct can become aggravated reckless conduct under 17-A Maine Statute § 213 if the prosecutor is able to prove that it was done with “terroristic intent.” Terroristic intent involves trying to seriously hurt or kill multiple or damage buildings or “critical infrastructure.”
Examples of Reckless Conduct in Maine
The court system in Maine has handled numerous criminal charges of reckless conduct. However, the vast majority of them don't get appealed, keeping Maine's higher courts from affirming what kind of conduct is, in fact, reckless conduct. With that said, there have been several cases that have helped to establish the limits of reckless conduct:
- Pointing a gun at someone else “in a threatening manner” is reckless conduct, even if there was no intent to fire the weapon – State v. Napier
- Side-swiping a car and intentionally pushing it towards oncoming traffic – State v. York
Penalties for a Conviction of Reckless Conduct
Depending on whether the allegation is for basic or aggravated reckless conduct or whether there is a domestic violence element to it, the penalties that you can face if convicted can change.
Without more, a standard charge of reckless conduct is a Class D crime. A conviction carries up to 364 days in jail and $2,000 in fines.
If the charge is for aggravated reckless conduct, the offense becomes a Class B crime. Convictions come with up to 10 years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
The penalties for a charge of reckless conduct that involves domestic violence are more complex. Typically, they are Class D crimes that carry up to 364 days in jail and $2,000 in fines. However, certain prior convictions can elevate the offense to a Class C crime that comes with up to five years in jail and $5,000 in fines.
Additionally, domestic violence convictions carry penalties that do not come in the form of a jail sentence or a fine. The probationary period is far stricter for domestic violence offenses, and there are rehabilitation classes that are mandatory to complete. Additionally, you can lose your right to bear arms or even possess a firearm.
Defending Against an Allegation of Reckless Conduct
There are numerous ways that a reckless conduct allegation can be challenged. While the specific details of your case determine the best defense strategy, there are some common defenses that get raised more than others.
Lack of Intent
While reckless conduct does not need to be intentionally or purposely done, it does need to be reckless and prosecutors have the burden of proving it. Showing that what you did was not the result of recklessness, but rather was merely negligent or a mistake can be an effective defense to an allegation of reckless conduct.
Challenging Testimony and Evidence
As in all criminal cases, the prosecutor has the burden of proving that you committed a crime. They have to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt – quite a high standard. Raising those reasonable doubts by providing reasons to be skeptical of the prosecution's witnesses or other evidence is a valuable defense strategy.
When police are investigating a crime and you are a suspect, you have constitutional rights that protect you and keep them in line. If they violate those rights, the evidence they find as a result of that violation can be excluded from court. Your right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures is a complicated one, though. Invoking it can take the skill of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Criminal Defense at WTB Law in Maine
If you have been accused of reckless conduct, you need to defend against the charges. If you don't, the penalties of a conviction can be life-altering. Even if the jail sentence is short or suspended by the judge, the blemish on your criminal history can make it difficult to overcome the setback.
The criminal defense lawyers at WTB Law can help you invoke your rights and protect your future. With their legal representation and guidance, an effective defense strategy can be laid out that serves your unique interests and utilizes the specific details of your case. Contact them online or call their law office at (207) 571-8146 to get started today.