Colorado "Reckless Endangerment" Laws
(Colorado 18-3-208 C.R.S.)

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What is reckless endangerment?

A person who recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person commits reckless endangerment under section 18-3-208 of the Colorado criminal code.

“Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.1

Reckless endangerment is a Colorado class 3 misdemeanor. It can be punished by a fine of up to $750 and up to 6 months in jail.

What does “recklessly” mean?

A person acts recklessly when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists.2

For conduct to be “reckless,” the risk must be of such a nature that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise. In other words, you act recklessly when you act with a “conscious disregard” of the risk created by your conduct. You are aware of the risk, but you choose to act anyway.3

Recklessness is a less culpable mental state than knowingly, which requires that you be “practically certain” that a result will occur. It is, however, a more culpable state than criminal negligence in which you are not aware of the risk, even though a reasonable person would have been.

For purposes of determining whether your conduct was reckless, the jury may take into account both:

  • Your personal knowledge and experience (subjective standard), and
  • What a reasonable person would have understood under the circumstances (objective standard).

Defenses to reckless endangerment in Colorado

Defenses to reckless endangerment charges depend on the specific facts of your case. Common defenses, however, often include (but are not limited to):

  • Your conduct was accidental;
  • There was no risk of serious bodily injury from your conduct;
  • You were not aware your behavior was creating a risk and a reasonable person would not have been aware of the risk; or
  • The police violated your rights.

Self-defense is NOT a defense to charges of reckless endangerment. Self-defense requires one to act justifiably, while recklessness requires one to act with conscious disregard of an unjustifiable risk. They are inconsistent states of mind.4

Call us for help…

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Have you or someone you know been charged with a Colorado crime of recklessness?

If so, our caring Colorado criminal lawyers may be able to help.

We have a great deal of experience representing clients accused of reckless endangerment, child abuse, third degree assault and reckless driving charges.

To arrange a free consultation in person or by phone, simply complete the confidential form on this page. One of our top Colorado defense lawyers will get back to you promptly to review the facts of your case and help you start planning your defense.

Or, if you prefer, call us at our Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202

Legal references:

  1. 18-1-901(3)(p) C.R.S.
  2. 18-1-501 (8) C.R.S.
  3. People v. Hall (2000) 999 P.2d 207.
  4. People v. Pickering (2011) 276 P.3d 553, certiorari denied 132 S.Ct. 2429, 182 L.Ed.2d 1061.


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