Firing a gun can be illegal even if no one was threatened or hurt. In Los Angeles, negligent discharge of a firearm is a charge that can be used in a wide variety of situations—usually where no wrongdoing was intended. Unfortunately, this charge still carries jail time and can become a felony under many circumstances. If you or your family member have been accused of negligent discharge, take the arrest seriously and fight it. You need to talk to a Los Angeles negligent discharge lawyer.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you. Our mission is to help those who have been accused, no matter what the circumstances. We believe that many responsible gun owners are wrongly arrested, and that honest accidents should never carry months in jail. We will defend you as if you are our own family member—and we have the experience to win. Let us give you a free consultation to show you what we can do. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What exactly is negligent discharge?
Negligent discharge is a criminal offense under California state law PC 246.3. It basically means firing a gun in an unsafe way. 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,” and
The way you did it could have resulted in someone being injured or killed.
Each part of this definition is important, and if any part cannot be proved, you should not be convicted of negligent discharge.
Examples of negligent discharge include:
A man uses his deer hunting rifle to shoot squirrels in his yard in an urban, residential neighborhood
A drunk person fires a gun straight up in the air during a celebration
A teenager shoots at a target in his yard, but a fence and another yard are behind the target
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Does shooting by accident count as negligent discharge?
No. This is a common misunderstanding—if the gun went off entirely by accident, it cannot be negligent discharge. This is because the law clearly states you must have “willfully” (voluntarily) fired the gun in order to be convicted.
Because of this:
It’s not negligent discharge if you drop a gun and it goes off
It’s not negligent discharge if thought the gun was unloaded
It’s not negligent discharge if you thought the gun was a toy/prop
It’s not negligent discharge if you simply mishandled the gun and it went off
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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 reckless fires a BB gun can face the same criminal penalties as someone who fired a gun. However, you cannot be charged with the felony version of this crime if the incident involved a BB gun.
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What is “gross negligence”?
Gross negligence is a crucial part of the definition of negligent discharge. In California, the law uses two kinds of negligence or carelessness to evaluate how reckless someone’s actions are:
Ordinary negligence. This just 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 does not count as negligent discharge.
Gross negligence. This means acting in a way that no reasonable person would do. It’s more than a careless moment, it’s a 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 does count as negligent discharge.
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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 crime, and your criminal history. A person with past offenses, especially involving violent crimes or firearms, is much more likely to face a felony charge.
The penalties are:
Misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000
Felony: Either 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000
Negligent discharge involving a BB gun (not a true firearm) is always a misdemeanor, regardless of the circumstances.
What defenses can I use against negligent discharge?
The best defense will depend on what happened in your specific case. In general, there are three main defenses used in negligent discharge cases:
Self-defense. 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.
You thought the gun wasn’t loaded. If you thought it wasn’t loaded then firing it was an accident, and 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.
No one was ever 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. But if you intentionally pointed the gun out at an empty field, for example, or someone who was safely behind you simply overreacted, then no one was actually in danger at all. This can be a powerful defense 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. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.