Negligent discharge of a firearm in public is illegal according to California law. As a “wobbler” offense, the prosecution can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony crime, leading to heavy fines and imprisonment. If you or someone close to you is under investigation or facing charges for a weapons offense, a skilled attorney can help. Riverside gun crime lawyer Gregory H. Comings will assess the circumstances of your case and work to set forth a defense tailored to your unique circumstances. At The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings, we provide honest and compassionate representation.
California Penal Code 246.3 details the crime of the negligent discharge of a firearm in public. The elements of this crime include willfully discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, which could result in someone’s injury or death. Firearms include devices used as a weapon where a projectile is discharged through the barrel by force of an explosion, such as BB devices.
Intent is an important element of this crime, as an accidental firing of the gun will not satisfy the willful element. If you believed the firearm was unloaded, you could not have the intent to fire it, and therefore, cannot be convicted of the negligent discharge of a firearm in public. However, a person firing his weapon into the air outside to celebrate at a party on New Year may be prosecuted for shooting in a grossly negligent manner that could injure others.
Gross negligence requires showing that the defendant acted in a reckless way, creating a high risk of death or great bodily injury. Additionally, a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would lead to that risk. This is more than ordinary negligence, which is sometimes defined as a lapse in judgment.
The offense of negligently discharging a firearm in public is a wobbler, which means that the prosecution can charge the crime as a misdemeanor or a felony. The charge depends on the facts, and the defendant’s criminal record, if they have one. A misdemeanor offense may lead to a fine up to $1000, or a sentence of one year in county jail, or both. If convicted of a felony, the felony can lead to three years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If convicted of Penal Code 246.3, additional penalties may include the loss of the right to bear arms, under the Second Amendment. Additionally, a felony conviction of Penal Code 246.3 serves as a strike and may be added to the defendant’s criminal record. California law also allows for sentencing enhancements, such as gang enhancements that can occur when the discharge of the firearm was completed in connection with gang-related activity.
To be convicted of Penal Code Section 246.3, a gun must be fired intentionally, meaning that the defendant knew it was loaded. If the defendant believed the gun was unloaded or there was no actual danger of injury or death to others, the defense of no willful intent may apply. A defendant cannot be guilty of violating the law if they did not willfully discharge their firearm.
Firing a gun into an isolated area or where no injury could come to others may support a defense. If there is no risk to others, this element of the crime will not be met, and the court could find that instead, the only risk was to oneself.
Self-defense is an appropriate defense if the discharged firearm was in defense of self, or another. The defendant must have been protecting themselves from imminent harm. A threat posed by animals is also sufficient for self-defense to apply.
To discuss your case with an experienced attorney, contact Gregory H. Comings at The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings in Riverside. Attorney Comings represents clients facing weapons offenses, and domestic violence. Our office provides an appointment and can be reached by calling (951) 686-3457 or online. Attorney Comings proudly helps people throughout Palm Springs, Temecula, Indio, Moreno Valley, Redlands, as well as Palm Desert, Highland, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, and San Bernardino.