ARTICLE 134 - RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT
Paragraph 100a of the Manual for Court Martial deals with reckless endangerment. The text of statute of Article 134 says that all neglects and disorders which are adverse to the discipline and good order in the armed forces, all conducts which can bring discredit to the armed forces, and offenses and crimes not capital, can be punished by a court martial.
ELEMENTS OF THE OFFENSE
- The accused has engaged in a certain conduct.
- The conduct of the accused was wrongful, wanton or reckless.
- The conduct is likely to cause the death of another person or lead to severe bodily harm.
- In these circumstance, the accused's conduct was adverse to the discipline and good order in the armed forces or the nature of the act could bring discredit to the armed forces.
EXPLANATION FOR THE ELEMENTS
1. In general:
The reason for listing this offense in the UMCJ is to prohibit and deter wanton or reckless conduct among service members, that can wrongfully increase the risk of death or severe bodily harm to another person.
2. Wrongfulness: A conduct can be said to be wrongful, if it is without a legal excuse or justification.
3. Recklessness: Any conduct that shows a culpable disregard of probable consequences to other people from an act or the omission of the act is called reckless conduct. It is not necessary that the accused have an intention to cause harm or even know that his action or lack of it, could have caused that result. The question that has to be answered is whether, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused, was so heedless that it actually caused an imminent danger to the safety or rights of other people.
4. Wantonness: 'Wanton' also means reckless, but it can also mean willfulness, or disregard of consequences, and so it can be used to describe more aggravated offenses.
5. Likely to cause: When the probable or natural consequence of a conduct of the accused is death or severe bodily harm, it can be inferred that the conduct was likely to cause that result.
6. Grievous or severe bodily harm: Severe bodily harm refers to bodily injury of a serious nature. Minor injuries such as a bloody nose or a black eye are not included. However, the offense does include dislocated or fractured bones, torn body members, deep cuts, severe damage to internal organs, and other serious injuries to the body.
7. Death or injuries are not necessary: To show reckless endangerment, it is irrelevant whether death or severe bodily harm was actually inflicted.
MAXIMUM PUNISHMENT FOR THE OFFENSE OF RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT
Any service member who is held guilty of reckless endangerment can be punished with a bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of allowances and pay and 1 year of confinement.
EXAMPLE TO SHOW HOW A PERSON CAN BE CHARGED WITH RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT:
A service member was looking after his two year old daughter in his Ft. Stewart home. The child usually stayed with her mother (the couple were divorced) but on that fateful day, she was visiting her father.
The accused was preparing breakfast with his roommate, who had just come back from Afghanistan, when they heard a gunshot. When they rushed to the bedroom, from where they had heard the gunshot, they found the child lying on the floor in a pool of blood, with a gunshot wound in her chest. There was a .40-caliber Springfield XD next to the child.
Apparently, the accused had left the gun on the nightstand next to his bed. The gun was loaded and the accused had not put the lock on. Unfortunately, the child found the gun and was playing with it, when it went off, hitting her in the chest. When the child was taken to the hospital, it was pronounced dead on arrival.
The service member was arrested and charged with contributing to the deprivation of a minor and reckless endangerment.