Negligent discharging of a firearm involves the intentional discharge of a gun, resulting in severe injuries and even the victim's death. The offense of negligently discharging a firearm is considered a severe offense in Los Angeles. For the defendant to face conviction, the prosecution should prove various crime elements, including gross negligence, intent, if the shooting resulted in death or injury, and the defendant did not act in self-defense.
When facing charges for negligent discharge of a firearm, Seeking legal assistance would be the best hope for fighting your charges. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney offers expert legal services across Los Angeles. Additionally, our highly experienced lawyers apply the best legal defenses to ensure your arguments in court are persuasive enough, increasing the probability of positive results.
Legal Definition of Negligent Discharge of A Firearm
Under California law, negligent discharging a firearm involves the intentional discharge, resulting in severe injuries and even the victim's death. It would be essential to understand a firearm under California law. A firearm is a weapon in which a projectile is released through a barrel. A weapon may contain combustive powder and other substances which create the required force to shoot.
In most cases, a firearm's negligent discharge doesn't harm anyone, mainly because the crime is typically associated with the defendant firing a warning shot to the sky. However, the prosecution has leverage over the defendant; all they need to prove is that the defendant's actions could have led to a person's injury or death.
The defendant needs to use hypothetical situations in showing their negligent discharge could have caused severe consequences to any unsuspecting victim. Even if the defendant didn't cause any injury or death to anyone, the act of putting others to risk is enough to prove them guilty of the offense. Additionally, if the defendant killed or injured a victim, the prosecution team will have an easy time proving them guilty of the crime. The prosecutor will only show a direct causation link.
The main question the prosecutor will emphasize on is whether the defendant's offense of discharging the projectile from their firearm was the immediate cause of the death or harm. Once there is any footage showing the defendant's involvement in the unlawful act, the defendant has a higher chance of facing legal punishment for the offense. Furthermore, testimony from the afflicted person will help the prosecutor in proving their allegations.
Examples of Negligent Discharge of A Firearm
Behaviors which can lead to the offender face charges of negligent discharging of a firearm include:
- Joe was showing off a loaded gun he owns at a crowded party. When another man laughs, suggesting he probably doesn't know how to use the gun, Joe shows him by firing a shot outside.
- A fifteen-year-old boy obtains a loaded gun belonging to his father and decides to engage in target practice by shooting toys where his younger sister is playing.
- At her prom, Jane grabs her father's handgun then fires it into the air as an expression of joy and celebration.
- John and James were hunting together. John teases James that he isn't a man enough to fire the gun in the vicinity of other pedestrians. Taking John's bait, James then fires the gun in the direction of the pedestrians.
- Paul fires a gun at the crowd in an attempt to quiet it down.
Elements of The Offense
In all criminal crimes, the prosecution team must establish the requisite elements of the charged offense before presiding the case to the judge for a final verdict. Additionally, the prosecution must ensure there is enough proof of the defendant's involvement in each element of the crime beyond a shadow of a doubt, ensuring the defendant's trial is lawful and fair.
When the prosecutor fails to demonstrate a direct link between the defendant's action and their contribution to the offense, the prosecution argument won't be strong enough to result in a conviction. Accordingly, the prosecutor works hard to collect evidence from all the sources, including surveillance footage, witness statements, and forensic sources such as DNA evidence or fingerprints. The elements the prosecution need to prove are:
You Intentionally Shot a Firearm
The defendant needs to have fired their gun intentionally for them to face convictions of the crime. However, if the trigger's pulling was by accident, you aren't guilty of the crime.
The defendant intentionally shoots a firearm when he/she pulls the trigger, and knowingly the firearm is loaded.
However, when the defendant accidentally pulls the trigger or believes the firearm wasn't loaded, it cannot be considered guilty for firearms' negligent discharge. For instance, John and James came across a handgun in John's father's office. Then John tells James the handgun is a toy. Since James believed it was a toy, he grabs the handgun from John, pulls it towards the door, and pulls the trigger. James won't be liable for a firearm's negligent discharge since he didn't believe it was loaded.
What Is A Firearm?
California law defines a firearm as any device used as a weapon, from which a projectile is expelled or discharged. The offense of negligent discharge of a firearm may also apply to BB devices. Notably, a BB device is any instrument or device which expels a projectile like a pellet or a BB through the force of gas pressure, spring action, or air pressure. However, a BB device's negligent discharge carries a lesser sentence than the negligent discharging of a firearm.
For example, Joel, a college student, brings a BB gun to a soccer game. Once the team he is rooting against scores a goal, he shoots the BB gun towards the ground in frustration. Although he is not firing a real weapon, Joel will be violating California PC 246.3.
You Acted in Gross Negligence
The defendant should have behaved with gross negligence. Someone acts with negligence include when:
- The defendant acts carelessly, creating a risk of significant bodily injury or death.
- You reasonably knew your actions would create a risk.
Notably, gross negligence involves something greater than a mistake in judgment or ordinary carelessness. You act with gross negligence when you behave differently from how an ordinary person could have acted in the same situation.
The Crime Might Have Led To Death or Injury
Note that the firing involves negligent discharge when the gun shooting might result in death or injury. The prosecution should show the defendant likely caused death or injury.
For instance, during her party, Maria shoots a firearm to space. The shooting doesn't injure anybody because Maria shot in a specific direction. However, it was possible and foreseeable the shooting could result in the injury or death of one or more people in the crowd. Therefore Maria would be guilty of negligent discharge of a firearm.
Common Penalties For PC 246.3
Under California PC 246.3, negligent discharging a firearm is a wobbler. The offense is chargeable as a felony or a wobbler. If the prosecutor succeeds in proving you were guilty of the crime, you face severe penalties. If facing an accusation for a firearm's negligent discharge in Los Angeles, you need an experienced attorney with a successful history for favorable outcomes from your case.
The prosecutor decides whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony according to the crime circumstance and the defendant's criminal history. When the negligent discharge involved a BB device or a peeler, not a firearm, the crime is chargeable as a misdemeanor. In California, misdemeanor penalties include:
- Fine not exceeding 1000$
- Imprisonment up to a year in county jail
- Misdemeanor summary of probation
Alternatively, if convicted of felony discharge of a firearm, penalties include:
- Imprisonment for sixteen months, 2 or 3 years
- Fine up to $10,000
- Strike under California 3 strike law
- Formal probation
If the judge avails formal probation options, you may serve your sentence outside the jail. However, the defendant meets several requirements to ensure the punishment continues without mishaps. You should regularly meet with your probation officer to monitor your progress and compliance record. Additionally, if your offense resulted in the victim's death or injury, you might be required to pay a restitution fee.
Sentencing Enhancement for Negligent Discharge of Firearm
Everyone convicted of negligent discharge of a firearm faces additional penalties, including:
If you were acting for the benefit of, or in the association, or in the direction of a gang intending to assist or promote criminal conduct, you would face enhancements. The enhancement includes imprisonment in state prison for up to 4 years in state prison.
The Three Strike Enhancement
Under California's three-strikes law, a person discharging a firearm negligently is considered a serious felony. When the defendant commits a felony, the court orders three strikes to be part of their criminal record. If the defendants commit a subsequent felony, the court imposes twice the expected punishment. Additionally, a third felony conviction results in imprisonment from 25 years up to life.
Discharging of firearms negligently results in serious consequences for non-citizens. It may result in deportation from the US for non-citizens. When convicted of the offense or plead guilty to it, you may be subject to deportation to any country you have a connection with.
Can the Defendant Obtain Expungement?
In California, misdemeanor and numerous felony convictions are eligible for expungement. When convicted under PC 246.3, you qualify expungement after meeting the following:
- After the defendant completes all their sentence and probation
- When the defendant has not committed any subsequent event
- If the defendant did not commit any variation violation
- When the defendant doesn't have pending criminal records
- When the defendant did not serve in state prison
Common Legal Defenses to the Crime
Prosecutors make an effort to prove the defendant guilty for the offense. Luckily, the defendant can defend their cases by hiring a competent criminal defense attorney. Building a strong criminal defense will depend on the defendant's circumstances to ensure they don't contradict facts before the judge.
The information provided by the defendant to their lawyer will establish persuasive and credible arguments, which may lead to the release of a reduction of the significant penalties. The possible defenses include:
Nobody Was Killed or Injured at The Scene
The prosecution should prove the defendant engaged in action that caused injuries or death.
Your lawyer should ensure you have enough evidence showing there wasn't the possibility of a person being present at the time of the scene; the defendant did not expose anyone to danger. The defense would be exclusive when the defendant was far from possible human interaction.
For instance, the defendant went on a solo road trip and stopped in the middle of the deserted road. If the defendant encountered an animal danger, and then decided to discharge them with firing to scare the animals away. Once a person hears the shooting from a distance and reports the nearby authorities' case, the defense would be applicable.
Your criminal defense lawyer needs to prove to you that people rarely use the road you had stopped. Therefore, there wasn’t possible risk exposure to any individual during the time of firing as the defendant was alone.
However, the defense won't work if the defendant fired a shot in a populated area like an amusement park. The prosecution only needs to show the possibility of exposing other people to the danger by the defendant.
You Acted in Self-Defense
The defense is best applicable when the circumstances leading to your actions were reasonable to avoid an impending danger another person posed. However, the defendant's argument should meet the reasonable requirements for anyone acting in self-defense.
The defendant must have had enough reason in believing that someone else was in danger. For instance, when the defendant was alone in his/her house. Then the homeowner heard unique noises from outside and thought someone was trying to break into their house.
Accordingly, the defendant might become apprehensive and decide on firing a shot as a warning. When the bullet lands on the person causing the alarming noises, the defendant might not be liable for the harm since their apprehension was valid.
Notably, the defendants have a right to themselves and their property from any danger. However, the defendant should apply a reasonable force when discharging a firearm and proportional to the danger in their hand.
You Had a Genuine Belief the Gun was Unloaded
The defendant may argue they had a genuine belief the gun wasn't loaded when they discharged it. For example, the defendant picked a firearm from a wall display and then decided to fire it outside the house; the defendant was unaware the gun was loaded. Therefore, the defense may be applicable since items in the display are not supposed to be active. Accordingly, your criminal defense lawyer will argue your belief was genuine, and you never knew the firearm was loaded.
Once the argument is successful, the defendant's charges may be dismissed since the defendant can't form an intent when he/she didn't know the firearm was loaded. Therefore, the defendant won't face a conviction for the offense.
Other Related Offenses Charged Alongside PC 246.3
Crimes related to the negligent discharge of firearms in California could be severe, depending on the circumstances. However, each crime has harsh punishments and penalties for the offenders, depending on their charges' circumstances. Related offenses filed along negligent discharge of firearm include:
Brandishing a Deadly Weapon in California
Brandishing a weapon involves carrying or drawing a weapon in an angry, rude, and threatening way in somebody else's presence and not in self-defense or someone's defense. You face convictions on brandishing a deadly weapon whether the firearm was loaded or not. A deadly weapon involves any instrument, object, or a deadly or dangerous weapon capable of causing death or bodily injury. Sometimes brandishing a weapon may be charged together with negligent discharge of a firearm.
The crime is chargeable as a felony or a misdemeanor, according to the offense scene. The punishments depend on the caused injuries, including bruises, bone fractures, loss of consciousness, and impaired body organs. Its penalties include sentences of three in state prison. Additionally, the defendant could face charges for both crimes if they have a weapon then aim at someone angrily, then it fires in the air.
For example, Maria and Jack are involved in a disagreement. Maria pulls a loaded gun, brandishes it at Jack to intimidate him, then fires a caution shot. In the case, Maria commits both offenses, negligent discharging of a firearm, and brandishing a firearm.
Felon with a Firearm
In California, we have three groups prohibited from possessing, owning, receiving, or buying a firearm Under California PC 29800. They include:
- Narcotic drug addicts
- Anyone previously convicted of a specific misdemeanor offense
- Those convicted of felony offenses
California felons with firearms prevent the offenders from unlawfully owning or possessing firearms after serving their sentences. According to California law, if you have prior convictions of negligently discharging firearms, you don't have the permission to possess a firearm. When convicted of violating the law, the crime is a felony carrying imprisonment six months, two years, or three years in prison after felony convictions.
Felony murder occurs when the defendant attempts to commit a felony or is a significant participant in a felony, then one of the following happens:
- The defendant kills a person.
- The defendant acted with reckless indifference to human life.
- The defendant aides or abets in first-degree murder intending to kill
- A police officer on duty is killed, resulting from the felony.
Felony murder has two classifications in California. First and second degree. The first degree involves murder committed in conjunction with other felonies, while second-degree felony murder involves felonies not listed under Penal Code 189 carry lighter sentences. First degree penalties include the death penalty, a life sentence in California state prison, or imprisonment in state prison from 25 years to life. Second, degree felony murder penalties include imprisonment in state prison from 25 years to life.
If the defendant faces accusations for negligently discharging a firearm and then accidentally killed someone in the process, they cant face convictions for murder. California courts don't allow defendants to face murder convictions if they accidentally killed someone in the process of committing negligent discharge felonies.
Firing a Gun at an Inhabited Building
An inhabited building involves a structure or residence where people live. You violate PC 246 if you shoot an occupied building, Inhabited house, or an occupied vehicle. Under Penal Code 246, the charge is relevant when someone is in the building. Additionally, the convictions also apply if you fire an occupied car. Firing in an inhabited structure is severe compared to the negligent discharge of a firearm. The crime is often a felony facing the following charges:
- From half to one year in county jail imprisonment
- Imprisonment in state prison for up to seven years
- Formal probation
- A fine of up to 10,000 USD
A Strike On Your Record Under Three Strike Law
Additionally, there are enhancements if a gun is fired at an inhabited dwelling, car, or a commercial building and hurts someone. The enhancement includes imprisonment from twenty-five years to life in case someone received severe injuries.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Negligent discharge of firearms results in severe consequences in Los Angeles. When facing charges, it would be essential to seek a skilled criminal defense attorney's assistance. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney has an excellent track record of winning gun-crime cases. We build robust defenses, challenge the prosecutor's case, and relentlessly fight for your rights. Call us at 310-564-2605 today to discuss the circumstances surrounding your case.
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