Memphis lawyer Christopher F. Donovan, 42, has been arrested after a parking dispute gone bad where an officer charges that Donovan hit him with his car near the courthouse. The charge, however, is notably not assault but a Class A misdemeanor of reckless endangerment. We have previously seen how little contact it takes to be charged with assault on an officer. While Donovan appears in the wrong from the available facts, the charge of reckless endangerment could be challenged.
Memphis police officer David Jensen, 34, was writing Donovan a ticket when he said the lawyer came out insisting that he had paid his past tickets. It then got ugly. The officer informed Donovan of a new policy to tow cars with unpaid tickets. While Donovan admitted that he had multiple tickets, he insisted that he paid the tickets. When Jensen checked on the tickets, he found that they were on a different vehicle. (Sounds like Donovan racks up tickets with astonishing regularity). When Jensen arranged for Donovan’s gray, 2008 Dodge Charger to be towed, he says that Donovan jumped in the Charger, refusing to get out. The officer says that Donovan was told not to leave. Donovan however started the car and drove off “hitting the officer in his left arm with the driver’s side door.”
The facts seem quite bad for Donovan. However, the endangerment claim sounds like it is based on a pretty minor touching. It is a close question depending on where the officer was. It could place the officer in danger.
The Tennessee law (TCA 39-13-103) on reckless endangerment requires a recklessly act that places someone in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. It can be punishable by up to one year in jail and fines.
However, if the reckless endangerment occurs with a deadly weapon, the charge is elevated to a Class E felony which carries a potential sentence of 1-6 years. Below the elements suggests more than a touching or brushing of an individual.
However, while Donovan should not have driven away, more facts are needed to make the endangerment claim credible in my view.
Here is the statute:
T.P.I.– CRIM. 6.03
Any person who commits the offense of reckless endangerment is guilty of a crime.
For you to find the defendant guilty of this offense, the state must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of the following essential elements:
(1) that the defendant engaged in conduct which placed or might have placed another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury; and
(2) that the defendant acted recklessly; [and]
[(3) that the offense was committed with a deadly weapon.]
“Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which involves a substantial risk of death; protracted unconsciousness; extreme physical pain; protracted or obvious disfigurement; or protracted loss or substantial impairment of a function of a bodily member, organ or mental faculty.
“Recklessly” 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.
The requirement of “recklessly” is also established if it is shown that the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly.
“Intentionally” means that a person acts intentionally with respect to the nature of the conduct or to a result of the conduct when it is the person’s conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.5
“Knowingly” means that a person acts knowingly with respect to the conduct or to circumstances surrounding the conduct when the person is aware of the nature of the conduct or that the circumstances exist. A person acts knowingly with respect to a result of the person’s conduct when the person is aware that the conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.6
["Deadly weapon" means a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury or anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.]