Owning a gun is a right protected by the United States Constitution and there are a number of valid reasons to own and carry a firearm. In the minds of many gun owners, paramount among these reasons is the need to protect themselves, their property, and their family. However, with this right comes a degree of responsibility and it is a criminal offense to negligently discharge your firearm.
Since one of your objectives in exercising your right to bear arms was probably to protect yourself from criminals, it can be frightening to face the court for a crime involving your firearm. But there are serious consequences if you are convicted of this offense and you should retain the services of a credible San Diego firearms attorney.
Why Was I Arrested?
Negligent discharge of a firearm is outlined in California Penal Code 246.3 PC. To be arrested for this crime, there must be sufficient evidence that with willful intent, you discharged a firearm with such gross negligence that injury or death could have resulted.
It is important to note the discharge should be willful and intentional. You cannot be found guilty of this crime if the discharging of your weapon was an accident. Additionally, the offense also includes negligent discharge of BB device.
In California, firearm offenses are considered very serious; however, unlike other weapon crimes, the negligent discharge of a firearm is a wobbler, giving the prosecution the discretion to file the matter as a felony or as a misdemeanor. On the other hand, when the matter involves a BB device, the charge is always a misdemeanor.
What Are The Consequences For Negligent Discharge of a Firearm?
Penalties for the negligent discharge of a firearm will depend on whether the charge proceeds as a misdemeanor or as a felony. The prosecutor’s decision on how to proceed with how it is charged will depend on the particular allegations and your criminal history.
As a misdemeanor the offense carries the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor probation;
- A maximum of one-year jail time; and/or
- Maximum fine of $1,000.
On the other hand, if you are facing felony negligent discharge of a firearm, being convicted carries more severe consequences. At sentencing, a judge could impose probation, up to three years behind bars, and a fine of $10,000. Additionally, felony negligent discharge of a firearm is considered a serious felony and will count as a strike on your record.
In addition to the standard penalties for the crime, California law also allows for sentencing enhancements. These enhancements will occur if the discharge of a firearm was done in connection with gang-related activities. If that is the case, upwards of 4 years in prison could be added to the sentence.
Sentencing will be based on a number of factors and even if you plead guilty, it is good to have a San Diego firearms attorney mitigating on your behalf. Your attorney will be able to put forward arguments to persuade the judge to impose the least penalty possible.
What Defenses Are Available?
Despite the seriousness of the charge, it is important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. In addition to getting the charge dismissed prior to trial, you can also secure your freedom by putting forward a good defense.
Each case will be different, so there is not a tailor-made defense formula for everyone. It will be important to talk with your San Diego firearms attorney to determine which of the following defenses would work best for your case:
- You were acting in self-defense;
- At the time of the incident, you were of the opinion that the firearm was not loaded;
- The discharge was an accident; or
- There was no danger of injury or death.
Why Call A San Diego Firearms Attorney
At McElfresh Law, we have years of experience offering high-quality legal representation to individuals charged with firearm-related offenses. Our law firm consists of dedicated California criminal defense attorneys with a track record of excellence. We are equipped with the required research and investigatory resources, in addition to an in-depth knowledge of the law and California’s criminal judicial system.
When facing a negligent discharge of a firearm charge, your first line of defense is to hire a good legal advocate. Call us today at (858) 756-7107 and let us discuss your case.