What Does Reckless Endangerment Mean in Tennessee?

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In Tennessee, Reckless Endangerment is a fairly broad statutory term that could be used to describe various situations. Because of this broad definition, you could also be charged with Reckless Endangerment on top of other more specific crimes, if those crimes endangered other people around you, as described in TCA § 39-13-103. In Chattanooga and Hamilton County, we find that Reckless Endangerment is closely related to the elements, and is often added, to driving offenses like DUI. One of those most common actions where reckless endangerment is charged is when someone shoots a gun into the air. It is also important to note that under Tennessee’s definition of Reckless Endangerment, neither intent nor actual harm need to exist to be found guilty. At the least, a defendant needs to have shown a disregard for public safety that they should have adhered to, and that disregard posed a risk to others.

Reckless Endangerment

TCA § 39-13-103

(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.


(1) Reckless endangerment is a Class A misdemeanor.

(2) Reckless endangerment committed with a deadly weapon is a Class E felony.

(3) Reckless endangerment by discharging a firearm or antique firearm into a habitation, as defined under § 39-14-401, is a Class C felony, unless the habitation was unoccupied at the time of the offense, in which event it is a Class D felony.

(4) In addition to the penalty authorized by this subsection (b), the court shall assess a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00) to be collected as provided in § 55-10-412(b) and distributed as provided in § 55-10-412(c).

TCA § 39-11-106

Provides legal definitions for the majority of certain terms used in the criminal chapters of the state code, like “reckless”, “firearm”, and “habitation”.

(a)(33) “Reckless” means that a person acts recklessly with respect to circumstances surrounding the conduct or the result of the conduct when the person is aware of, but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the accused person's standpoint;


Like mentioned in the statute, depending on the specific facts of your case, like the involvement of a deadly weapon such as a vehicle or a firearm, the charge can be classified anywhere from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony. The state of Tennessee has outlined the sentencing terms for those offenses below.

TCA § 40-35-111

(b) The authorized terms of imprisonment and fines for felonies are:

(3) Class C felony, not less than three (3) years nor more than fifteen (15) years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), unless otherwise provided by statute;

(4) Class D felony, not less than two (2) years nor more than twelve (12) years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), unless otherwise provided by statute; and

(5) Class E felony, not less than one (1) year nor more than six (6) years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed three thousand dollars ($3,000), unless otherwise provided by statute.

(e) The authorized terms of imprisonment and fines for misdemeanors are:

(1) Class A misdemeanor, not greater than eleven (11) months, twenty-nine (29) days or a fine not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or both, unless otherwise provided by statute.

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