Defenses to the Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm

Skilled Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Aggressively Defending the Rights of Gun Owners Throughout Maricopa County

Most people are under the impression that Arizona has favorable laws for gun owners. And, to some extent, that’s true. However, even the most gun-friendly states, including Arizona, criminalize the unlawful discharge of a firearm. If you face charges related to illegally firing a gun, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the defenses to unlawful discharge of a firearm. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we have more than 20 years of hands-on experience aggressively advocating on behalf of clients charged with serious Arizona firearm / gun / weapon offenses. We are immediately available to meet with you for a free consultation to discuss your situation and start working on a compelling defense to the charges you face.

What Constitutes Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm?

Under Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-3107, anyone who acts with criminal negligence when discharging a firearm within or into city limits is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Although the law doesn’t clarify what constitutes criminal negligence, examples of situations in which prosecutors may bring this type of charge include:

  • Shooting a gun into the air in a crowded area;
  • Shooting generally in someone’s direction, without intending to hit them;
  • Firing a gun at another driver’s vehicle in an episode of road rage; and
  • Firing a weapon from a moving vehicle (i.e., drive-by shooting).

While the language of this law is very broad, the statute also provides for several situations in which discharging a firearm within a city is not illegal. The following, if proven, are defenses to the unlawful discharge of a firearm:

  • The gun was not loaded with live ammunition (i.e., you were shooting blanks);
  • You were legally at a gun range;
  • You were hunting or firing a weapon to control wildlife (with the appropriate license);
  • You were more than a mile away from any occupied structure; or
  • You were defending yourself, either from another person or from an animal.
Other Defenses to the Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm

Unlike other gun crimes, motions to suppress physical evidence will not necessarily help beat an unlawful discharge case because the government doesn’t need the gun itself as evidence. However, there are other defenses to the unlawful discharge of a firearm that, while they don’t completely eliminate criminal liability, can drastically reduce your exposure.

Most importantly, the unlawful discharge of a gun is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be graded as a misdemeanor or felony at the discretion of the prosecution. Further, even if the prosecution brings felony charges, upon finding a defendant guilty, a judge can use their discretion to convict the defendant of a misdemeanor.

Thus, while this isn’t a complete defense, an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney may be able to significantly limit the amount of time you could face in prison by successfully negotiating with prosecutors. Alternatively, a lawyer may also be able to create a compelling case to the judge by effectively presenting mitigating evidence showing that you are not deserving of a felony conviction.

The other major defense involves illustrating why you did not act with criminal negligence. For example, even if none of the official defenses to the unlawful discharge of a firearm are available, your attorney may be able to convince a judge or jury that, although you fired a gun when you shouldn’t have, your behavior was not criminal in nature.

Schedule a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Phoenix Gun Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

If you face Arizona gun charges, you deserve a criminal defense attorney who is prepared to take your case as seriously as you do. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we routinely defend clients in high-stakes gun cases, protecting their rights, their freedom, and their futures. We can help you identify which defenses apply in your case and aggressively pursue them in hopes of obtaining the best result possible. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.

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