Firing a gun can be illegal even if no one was threatened or hurt. In California, negligent discharge of a firearm is a charge that can be used in several situations – usually where no wrongdoing was intended. Unfortunately, this charge still carries jail time and can become a felony under many circumstances.
If you have been accused of negligent discharge, take the arrest seriously and fight it. Talk to a negligent discharge of a firearm defense lawyer in Los Angeles today. The Simmrin Law Group can assist you. Our mission is to help those facing charges, no matter what the circumstances.
What Exactly Is a Negligent Discharge?
Negligent discharge is a criminal offense under California Penal Code Section 246.3. This statute covers the firing of a gun in an unsafe manner. However, in order to convict you of negligent discharge, the prosecution has to prove three separate facts about what happened:
- You willfully fired (“discharged”) a firearm
- You did it in a manner that is “grossly negligent”
- The way you fired the gun could have resulted in someone being injured or killed
Each part of this definition is important. If any part cannot be proved, you should not be convicted of a negligent discharge.
For a free legal consultation with a negligent discharge of a firearm defense lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 928-9347
Does Shooting By Accident Count As Negligent Discharge?
No. This is a common misunderstanding. If the gun went off entirely by accident, it is not a case of negligent discharge. The reason for this is that the law clearly states you must have “willfully” (voluntarily) fired the gun in order to be convicted. Because of this wording in PC 246.3, it’s not a negligent discharge if you:
- Drop a gun and it goes off
- Thought the weapon was unloaded
- Thought the gun was a toy/prop
- Simply mishandled the gun and it went off
Your negligent discharge of a firearm defense attorney in Los Angeles can investigate your charges to determine if one of these arguments applies to your case.
Los Angeles Negligent Discharge of a Firearm Defense Lawyer Near Me (310) 928-9347
What Is Gross Negligence?
Gross negligence is a crucial part of the definition of a negligent discharge. In California, the law uses two kinds of negligence or carelessness to evaluate how reckless someone’s actions are.
Ordinary negligence simply means not taking the normal precautions that a reasonable person would take. For example, you leave a loaded gun sitting on the edge of a narrow ammunition shelf at the shooting range, and it falls and goes off. This firing of your weapon does not count as negligent discharge.
Gross negligence means acting in a way that no reasonable person would do. It is more than a careless moment. It is a complete disregard for safety. For example, standing behind your friend at the shooting range and firing over his shoulder, just to show you can do it. This example does count as negligent discharge.
What Are the Penalties for Negligent Discharge of a Firearm in Los Angeles?
The law does not treat negligent discharge as a minor offense. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Which one the prosecutor chooses depends on the circumstances of the alleged transgression and your criminal history.
A person with past convictions, especially involving violent crimes or firearms, is much more likely to face a felony charge. The severity of the penalties you face will depend upon your charge(s) and how a negligent discharge of a firearm defense attorney in Los Angeles handles your case.
While this is the lighter of the two charges, the penalties if convicted can still be quite severe. A conviction could result in:
- Up to one year in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Summary probation
The consequences rise sharply if you are looking at a felony charge. If convicted you could be facing:
- Up to three years in jail
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Formal probation
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Will a Negligent Discharge Conviction Affect My Gun Rights?
Unlike with many other misdemeanors, a conviction under Penal Code 246.3 can result in the loss of your rights to gun ownership. This ban will last for ten years. When the charge is processed as a felony, the ban becomes a lifetime one.
Those convicted of a felony generally lose their rights to own or purchase a firearm in California. Unlike other penalties you are likely to face after a felony conviction, this one does not have a time limit. Your gun rights will be restricted for the rest of your life.
Can I Be Arrested for Negligent Discharge of a BB Gun?
Yes. Unlike most of California’s other gun laws, negligent discharge applies to pellet guns and BB guns as well as conventional firearms. Someone who recklessly fires a BB gun can face the same criminal penalties as someone who fired any other weapon.
However, if the weapon involved in this crime was a BB gun, there is no risk of facing a felony charge. Under these circumstances, a violation of Penal Code 246.3 will always be charged as a misdemeanor.
Nevertheless, you can still fight the charge with help from a Los Angeles negligent discharge of a firearm attorney.
Examples of Negligent Discharge of a Firearm
Here are a few examples to give you a better idea of what counts as negligent discharge.
A man uses his deer hunting rifle to shoot squirrels in his yard in an urban, residential neighborhood. He could be arrested for negligent discharge because there is a strong possibility of endangering others in the vicinity.
A drunk person fires a gun straight up in the air during a celebration. This action is clearly grossly negligent behavior, as the gunman is both intoxicated and firing the weapon indiscriminately.
A woman is firing a rifle at targets out in the desert. As long as the area is truly deserted, she should not face a charge of negligent discharge.
A teenager shoots at a target in his yard, but a fence and another yard are behind the target. This activity would count as negligent discharge because a bullet could go through (or miss) the target and pass through the fence, striking a neighbor.
What Defenses Can I Use Against Negligent Discharge?
The best defense strategy your L.A. negligent discharge of a firearm defense lawyer can use will depend on what happened in your specific case. In general, there are three main defenses used in negligent discharge cases:
- You thought the gun was unloaded
- Nobody was in danger
If you acted in self-defense, such as firing a gun into the air to warn off an attacker, it does not count as negligent discharge. Self-defense is different from a negligent discharge because you reasonably suspected that you were in danger, whereas with a negligent discharge, you did not.
You Thought the Gun Was Unloaded
If you thought that the gun was unloaded, then firing it was an accident. Because the law states that you must willfully discharge the weapon, this does not meet the definition of negligent discharge. This defense is strongest if you were not familiar with the firearm in question or someone specifically told you it wasn’t loaded.
Nobody Was in Danger
Part of the definition of the crime is that you fired the gun in a way that could have hurt or killed someone. However, if you intentionally pointed the gun out at an empty field, for example, no one was actually in danger at all. This defense can be powerful under the right circumstances.
You can see for yourself how complicated negligent discharge cases can be. Tiny differences in legal definitions can mean spending a year in jail or not. Many cases of so-called “negligent discharge” should never have been reported to the police at all because no real crime was committed and no one was put in danger.
Unfortunately, the prosecutor will still try to put you behind bars. You need to talk to a lawyer.
Talk to a Los Angeles Negligent Discharge Lawyer for Free
Just because you fired a gun doesn’t mean you should go to jail. The Simmrin Law Group has the experience and knowledge to help. We believe that many responsible gun owners are wrongly arrested. We also feel that honest accidents should never carry months in jail. We will defend you as if you are our own family member.
Let our legal team fight for you. Contact us by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call. You can schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with one of our Los Angeles negligent discharge of a firearm attorneys today. We will review your case and advise you of your legal options.