Defenses to the Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm

Experienced Arizona Criminal Defense Lawyers Skillfully Representing Clients Facing Serious Gun Charges

While Arizona is generally a gun-friendly state, there are strict prohibitions in place regarding when someone can fire a gun. However, if you’ve been arrested for an Arizona gun crime, it is important to remember that there are defenses to the unlawful discharge of a firearm. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we aggressively defend the rights of clients facing these serious crimes, helping them move past their arrest and on with their lives—with as little impact on their future as possible.

What is Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm?

Under Arizona law, it is illegal to fire a gun with “criminal negligence” within or into the boundary of any city or town. Of course, the law does not define what “criminal negligence” is; however, it may include any of the following:

  • Engaging in a drive-by shooting;
  • Firing a gun into the air in a crowded area;
  • Without aiming, shooting a gun in a person’s direction; or
  • Firing a gun at a vehicle after the drive cuts you off.

Often, prosecutors charge unlawful discharge of a firearm in conjunction with other offenses. For example, if someone shot a gun into a crowd, they may face attempted murder, assault, and unlawful discharge of a firearm charges.

What Are the Defenses to the Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm?

Like every other criminal offense, there are defenses to the unlawful discharge of a firearm. These defenses are contained within the statute outlining the offense, Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-3107. More specifically, it is not a crime to discharge a firearm under any of the following circumstances:

  • You were shooting blanks,
  • You were at a gun range;
  • You were hunting or controlling wildlife with a valid license to do so;
  • You were more than one mile away from any occupied structure; or
  • You were acting to defend yourself or another person from an animal attack.
Punishments for Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm

If you are convicted of unlawfully discharging a firearm in Arizona, you will face a Class 6 felony. However, unlawful discharge of a firearm is what’s called a “wobbler” offense. Wobbler offenses are those that can be either misdemeanors or felonies, at the discretion of the judge or prosecutor. Thus, if, in the interests of justice, the court determines that you are not deserving of a felony conviction, the judge can sentence you for a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Thus, while this is not necessarily a defense to charges of unlawful discharge of a firearm, successfully arguing for a misdemeanor conviction rather than a felony conviction can dramatically reduce your exposure. For example, Class 6 felonies carry a punishment of between four months and five years and nine months in state prison and fines of up to $150,000. On the other hand, a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail, up to three years of probation, and a fine of up to $2,500.

Note, however, that if you committed a “dangerous offense” while unlawfully discharging a gun, you are not eligible for a misdemeanor conviction.

Are You Facing Arizona Gun Charges?

If you were recently arrested and charged with illegally firing a gun, reach out to the Law Office of James E. Novak for immediate assistance. At our Arizona criminal defense law firm, we have decades of experience defending clients from all types of serious offenses, including weapons charges. Attorney Novak is ready to meet with you at your convenience to discuss how he can help. He can work with you to develop a compelling defense to the charges you face, whether it’s through a pretrial motion to suppress, negotiating with prosecutors, or litigating your case in front of the jury. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.