Justification Defenses for Display of a Firearm

Knowledgeable Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Defending the Rights of Gun Owners Charged with Weapons Violations

While Arizona is generally a gun-friendly state, an Arizona gun case is extremely serious. If you are convicted of unlawfully displaying a firearm, you face up to 18 months in prison and a host of other consequences, including costly fines, probation, and possibly an inability to legally possess a gun in the future. However, there are important justification defenses for display of a firearm offenses. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our Phoenix gun crimes lawyer represents lawful gun owners who find themselves at the center of a criminal case. We can help you defend your freedom as well as your right to own, possess and use a firearm.

Displaying a Firearm in Arizona

Under Arizona law, it is generally against the law to display a firearm. The law against displaying a firearm is contained in the disorderly conduct statute, A.R.S. § 13-2904. Under § 13-2904, it is a Class 6 Felony for someone to recklessly handle, display or discharge a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. And while it doesn’t explicitly state as such, of course, a firearm fits within the definition of a deadly weapon. Thus, taking out a gun in public can result in you being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

When Is It Legal to Display a Firearm?

As a general rule, you cannot display a handgun in public. However, there is one big exception to the general rule prohibiting the display of a firearm, and that is when a person engages in the defensive display of a firearm under A.R.S. § 13-421. Section 13-421 provides,

The defensive display of a firearm by a person against another is justified when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the use or attempted use of unlawful physical force or deadly physical force.

To qualify for this defense, the question isn’t necessarily whether you thought you needed to pull out a gun to defend yourself. Instead, the law imposes a “reasonable person” standard. Essentially, this requires the judge or jury objectively consider your actions through the lens of a reasonable person to determine if your truly held belief that you needed to brandish a weapon was indeed reasonable.

The justification defenses for display of a firearm apply to each of the following actions:

  • Telling another person that you have a gun on you;
  • Exposing the firearm to another person;
  • Placing your hand on the gun while it is in your pocket, purse or other means of containment or transport.

However, § 13-421 also provides a few situations where, even if your belief was reasonable, you still don’t qualify for the defense. These include:

  • You provoked another person into using unlawful force; or
  • You were using the gun during the commission of a serious or violent crime.

In other words, if you pulled out a gun after starting a fight, you won’t be able to rely on the defensive display of a firearm defense. Similarly, if you were in the process of committing a crime resulting in serious injury or death, or an arson, sex offense, or other “serious” crime as defined by A.R.S. § 13-706, you can’t use the defense. A lawyer experienced in handling firearm / gun / weapon offenses can assist you in determining if this defense is available to you.

Were You Charged with Disorderly Conduct for Displaying a Firearm in Phoenix?

If you are a lawful gun owner and you currently face criminal charges for acting in self-defense or defense of others, it is essential you understand that justification defenses for display of a firearm. At the Law Offices of James E. Novak, we have over a decade of experience aggressively defending the rights and freedom of gun owners. We can help show the judge or jury why your actions were reasonable and why you should not be held criminally liable for taking out your gun in public. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Phoenix gun crimes defense attorney today, call 480-413-1499 today.

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