Gun violence has become prevalent in the Nation and the state of California. Therefore, being safe and responsible when using guns is crucial, and negligence with the firearms is penalized harshly by the law. You commit an offense of negligent discharge of a firearm when you discharge the gun while portraying gross negligence in a way that could cause severe bodily injury.
This offense is charged under Penal Code 246.3 of the California law, and a conviction will result in severe legal consequences. If you, your spouse, or your relative is facing criminal charges for negligently discharging a firearm, you will require competent legal guidance. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we will offer legal advice and representation to ensure you secure the best results.
Overview of Penal Code 246.3 of California
Penal Code 246.3 of California seeks to punish anyone who discharges a firearm in a negligent manner and in a way that could cause injury or death to other people. Negligent discharge of a firearm means that you willfully discharge the firearm. If you shoot a gun accidentally, you cannot be charged with negligent discharge of a firearm. For you to be convicted for this offense, the prosecutor must establish the following crime elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
You Shot a Firearm Intentionally
Shooting a firearm is considered intentional if you intended to pull the trigger and knew it was loaded. Therefore, accidental pulling of the trigger ill not attract criminal charges under Penal Code 246.3. If you reasonably believed that the firearm wasn't loaded, you will not be found guilty of the crime.
Before you get convicted, the prosecutor must establish your knowledge that the gun had bullets. For this offense, any device that can act as a weapon is considered a firearm. Also, the discharge of a BB device that acts on Air, gas pressure of spring action attracts charges.
You Acted with Gross Negligence
Gross negligence is more than mere carelessness. You portray gross negligence when acting in a manner that puts another person in the risk of severe bodily injury or death. Moreover, when you act so that a reasonable person wouldn't, you are grossly negligent. When proving that you are guilty of negligently discharging, a prosecutor must show that you acted in reckless disregard for others' lives when you acted.
Your Actions Could Have Caused Severe Bodily Harm or Death
Negligent discharge of a firearm becomes an offense if the conduct would have resulted in severe bodily harm or death. The prosecutor needs to prove that your conduct would have caused death, and the severe injury was a foreseeable result of your action. If you shot a firearm in a place that is not occupied, it will be difficult for the prosecutor to prove the likelihood of injuring another individual.
Penalties and Sentencing for Penal Code 246.3
In California, negligently discharging a firearm is a wobbler. The offense could be treated as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on specific circumstances under which you acted. Also, your criminal history will be considered during sentencing. However, when negligent discharge is perpetrated using BB devices, the offense is charged as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction for negligent firearm discharge will attract these penalties:
- A one-year jail sentence
- Misdemeanor probation. In California, probation could be charged as an alternative to a jail sentence. If you are sentenced to informal probation, you will be required to adhere to conditions such as payment of court fines
- Up to $10,000 in court fines
When charged as a felony, a conviction will result in the following forms of punishment:
- A jail sentence ranging from sixteen months to three years
- Court fines that do not exceed $10,000
- Formal probation. If you receive a probation sentence instead of a jail sentence, you will likely serve three to five years of probation. During the probation period, the court mandates that you adhere to the set terms
If you negligently discharge a firearm in connection with a gang or to benefit gang members, you could face an additional prison sentence of up to four years. Negligent discharge of a firearm is a serious offense when charged as a felony. A second conviction for this offense will attract a sentence under California three strikes law. This will result in 25 years or life imprisonment.
A conviction for Penal Code 246.3 attracts severe legal consequences for a non-citizen. This is because negligently firing a firearm is a deportable offense. Immigrants who get convicted for this offense in California risk being deported or rendered inadmissible.
Legal Defenses to California Penal Code 246.3
Despite the severe nature of a firearm's negligent discharge in California, you will remain innocent until the prosecutor proves your guilt. A knowledgeable criminal lawyer will examine your charges' nature and help you develop defenses to present for your case. The following are some common defenses applicable to this crime:
No Danger of Injury or Death
The prosecutor proves your guilt for negligently discharging a firearm if they can establish that our actions posed a danger to other people. This will significantly depend on the area and the time at which the incident occurred. The prosecutor will prove all these factors before you get convicted. With guidance from your criminal lawyer, you can find mistakes in the prosecutor's testimony and tell your account of the occurrences. If it is not clear that you posed a danger of injury or death of another person, you cannot face a conviction for this offense.
Claim That the Firearm Was Not Loaded
Negligent discharge of a firearm is a criminal offense when you do it intentionally and with a possibility of causing injury on others. Before the prosecutor secures a conviction under Penal Code 246.3, it must be clear that you knew the gun was loaded. If you had a reason to believe that the gun wasn't loaded, you could not be found guilty for the offense.
Argue that You Acted in Defense of Yourself and Others
You could use self-defense as a defense to a firearm's negligent discharge if you had a reasonable belief that you were in danger of severe bodily injury. You can also argue that the force you used was enough to protect yourself from harm. If you can effectively prove that you discharged a firearm while protecting yourself or another person, you will be able to fight the charges brought against you.
Sometimes, a gun may be shot in a remote area, and the witness of the crime doesn't see the person who discharged the firearm. In this case, you can be wrongly identified as the perpetrator of the crime. With the help of your attorney, you can argue that you were falsely accused. If there is no clear evidence of you discharging the firearm, you can escape a conviction and the harsh penalties.
There were No People Present
Negligent discharge of a firearm requires that you shoot the firearm in a place that could be occupied, thus posing injury to others. If there were no individuals in the surrounding area who could get injured from your actions, you could not be guilty.
Frequently Asked Question on Negligent Discharge of a Firearm in California
Negligent discharge of a firearm is treated as a severe crime in California. If you or your loved one is facing charges under Penal Code 246.3, you may be confused about navigating the situation. Seeking legal guidance from a criminal lawyer is one of the wisest decisions you can make when battling these charges. The following are some frequently asked questions regarding the arrest and prosecution of this crime in California:
Where is it legal to Discharge a Firearm in California?
Under California law, it is a crime to discharge a firearm while hunting or anywhere within 150 yards of an occupied area. However, a person who owns the premises or has permission from the owner can legally discharge a firearm.
If I accidentally discharge a firearm, can I get convicted?
Before you get convicted for unlawful discharge of a firearm, the prosecutor must prove that you acted in gross negligence. If you believe that you discharged the firearm by mistake, you can present accidental discharge as a defense to your case. However, since firearm holders are expected to exercise caution when handling the guns, you can still get convicted for the offense even when you did not mean to discharge the firearm.
Can I Fire a Warning Shot in California?
Yes. If you have a reasonable belief that your life or that of another person is in danger, you can legally fire a warning shot in California. However, if the shot you took could have been a threat of injury or death to another person, your actions will be considered illegal and face criminal charges.
Can I be Evicted for Accidentally Discharging a Firearm?
Accidental discharge of a firearm is always caused by individuals who assume that the gun is loaded. Whether you will get evicted after discharging a firearm will depend on your residence and the kind of disturbance and harm you caused.
What Causes Accidental Discharge?
Negligent discharge is firearm discharge, which is associated with carelessness. This could occur due to a shooter's error or lack of attention on the basic safety rules. Either way, discharging a firearm in a manner that could cause severe bodily injury or death is charged safely under Penal Code Section 246.3.
Offenses Related to Negligent Discharge of a Firearm
Gun offenses have been on the increase in California. Violations that involve reckless use of a firearm are punished severely. Some crimes are related to negligent discharge of a firearm in California and can be charged alongside this offense:
Brandishing of a Weapon
Brandishing a weapon involves exhibiting or drawing a deadly weapon in an angry or otherwise threatening manner in front of another person. Should you draw a weapon during an argument, you can be arrested and charged under Penal Code 417 of California law. For this offense, a deadly weapon is any item that could be used to cause severe bodily harm or death. In situations where you shot a gun during an argument, you can face both the brandishing of a weapon and negligent discharge charges. When you face criminal charges for brandishing a deadly weapon, the prosecutor must establish these facts without a reasonable doubt:
- You possessed a deadly weapon, according to the law
- You exhibited or drew the gun in a threatening or angry way in the presence of another person
- You used that weapon to fight or threaten someone
- When you pulled the weapon, you were not acting in self-defense or defense of others
Not all instances of drawing a weapon will attract criminal charges under Penal Code 417. You can claim that you exhibited the firearm in your defense to protect yourself from the alleged victim's danger. You can also argue that how you drew the firearm was not threatening. Brandishing of a weapon is charged as a misdemeanor in California. A conviction for the offense will result in a one-year jail sentence and $1,000 in court fines.
Possession of a Firearm by a Felon
PC 29800 makes it a crime for these categories of individuals to possess firearms:
- A person who has been convicted for a violent crime such as murder or manslaughter
- An individual who is addicted to drugs
- A person who has a prior conviction for a felony in the United States
You can get arrested and charged with felon in possession of a firearm if you fall in the above categories, and you are found in ownership or control of a gun. Also, the prosecutor needs to show your knowledge of the firearm's presence. Individuals who violate PC 29800 face felony charges. When you get convicted, the offense attracts a jail sentence not exceeding three years and $10,000 in fines.
However, your attorney could negotiate to have you serve probation instead of a jail sentence. If you had a previous felony conviction and face charges for a firearm’s negligent discharge, you could face additional charges for felon in firearm possession.
Shooting at an Inhabited house or Occupied Car
California law has recognized the risk presented by individuals who shoot firearms in cars or occupied homes. Therefore, shooting at an occupied house is a felony that can attract severe legal consequences. When securing a conviction, the prosecutor needs to show that you:
- Intentionally shot a firearm as defined by the statue. An intentional act is a malicious one, and you do it with the knowledge that it was harmful.
- You shot the weapon in an occupied vehicle or inhabited dwelling. A house or car is considered to be inhabited as long as someone uses it. Even when there was no one at the time you shot, you can be convicted for the offense.
- Your actions were not in self-defense.
Shooting into an occupied house is a felony in California. A conviction for this offense will result in a prison sentence of up to seven years. If you caused severe bodily harm or death of another person with your actions, you might face an additional 25 years to a life prison sentence. Penal Code 246 is a severe offense that could cause lifelong consequences. Most people facing charges for shooting a gun in an inhabited house will seek a reduction of the charge to negligent discharge of a gun. This is because the offense carries lesser penalties. Therefore, competent legal representation will go a long way for you or a loved one facing the charges.
Carrying a Loaded Firearm in Public
Penal Code 25850(a) seeks to punish individuals who hold a loaded gun in a public place. However, peace officers, active military personnel, or a permit weapon holder are exempted from the rule. It is typical for a firearm's negligent discharge to be charged alongside carrying a loaded firearm in a public place. If you do not have a prior conviction and did not cause injuries to other people, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.
Fight Penal Code 246.3 Charges with a Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Penal Code 246.3 makes it a crime for anyone to discharge a firearm in a manner that might cause death or severe injury of another person. California criminal law severely punishes individuals who use firearms negligently with jail or prison sentences and fines. Fortunately, getting arrested and charged with this offense will not always end in a conviction.
With help from an experienced lawyer, you can present legal defenses to help you fight the charges and avoid the harsh penalties. If you have been accused of negligently discharging a firearm in California, you need to consider seeking legal guidance. If you are charged in Los Angeles, California, you can call us for help. Contact us today at 310-502-1314 and allow us to take charge of your case.