Although the Second Amendment provides people with the right to bear arms on American soil, each state has laws that place a limit on how weapons are used. These laws are designed to protect the health and safety of the public. One of the limitations on how a firearm can be used is where and when it is legal to discharge a firearm. Depending on the situation, especially in a case in which discharging a firearm was under an unorderly or dangerous situation, you may be charged with an offense known as aggravated discharge of a firearm. The penalties for this offense can be harsh, so it’s important that you hire a civilian court-martial lawyer. Here is some brief information on what aggravated discharge of a firearm means and the potential penalties for this offense.
What Does Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm Mean?
Discharging your firearm on a shooting range or even hunting game during open season will not land you in legal problems. But, if you discharge your firearm in certain places and without regard for safety for others, you may be charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm. Aggravated discharge happens when your firearm is discharged in a manner that jeopardizes the safety of others. The law generally applies to rifles, pistols, and other guns; however, in some situations, pellet or BB guns may also be included. This law also applies to how the weapon is or was being used. You are committing aggravated discharge of a firearm when you intentionally or knowingly:
- Discharge your firearm in the direction of a person that you know is a community policing volunteer, a peace officer, a correctional institution employee, or discharge a firearm while the volunteer, employee, or officer is in the process of executing their official duties. It is illegal to shoot a gun at another person, regardless of your intent.
- Discharge a firearm in the direction of a vehicle that you know to be occupied by a person or persons.
- Discharge a firearm in the direction of a person that you know is a teacher or any person that is employed in a school, whether the person is on the school grounds, the adjacent school grounds, or any part of a building that is used for school purposes.
- Discharge a firearm into or in the direction of a building that you know to be occupied by one or more people.
Penalties for Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm
The penalties for aggravated discharge of a firearm vary depending primarily on whether your offense is charged as a misdemeanor, class 1, or a Class X felony. If convicted, you may be facing a prison sentence of as much as 45 years. The penalty varies depending on the state as well as the circumstances of the case. A misdemeanor offense is less serious than a felony offense, but either may result in significant penalties, including:
- Fines-The fines for aggravated discharge of a firearm vary significantly. For instance, the fine for a city ordinance may be as low as five or ten dollars, a misdemeanor fine usually ranges between $50 and $1000, while felony fines are generally more significant and can sometimes be as much as $10,000 or even more.
- Probation-All or part of your penalty may include probation, which generally lasts for at least 12 months; however, in some situations, it may be as long as three years. While on probation you are required to meet specific conditions, such as enrolling in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program if there was substance abuse involved, scheduled reporting to your probation officer, paying all court costs and fines, and not committing any more crimes. If you fail to comply with the conditions of your probation, it can lead to the court revoking your probation and imposing additional fines, jail, and/or extended probation.
- Firearms restrictions-According to the Federal Firearms Law, a convicted felon cannot be in the possession of a firearm. This means if you are found guilty and convicted of a felony crime, including aggravated discharge of a firearm, you will not be permitted by law to legally buy or possess a firearm.
- Jail or prison-A sentence of jail or prison, as well as the length of time, varies depending on the city or state in which the offense occurred. For some people, a city ordinance violation may not include any jail time at all; however, a misdemeanor charge may result in as little as a few days to as much as one year in jail. A felony offense, especially if you discharged your firearm into an occupied residence or fired in a manner that risked the safety of humans, may result in a prison sentence of five or more years.
It is extremely important to note that any criminal charge involving a firearm is a serious situation. If you have been charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm, you may be facing serious penalties, most of which can have a negative impact on your family, your life, and your employment. It is important that you talk with a local civilian court-martial lawyer as soon as you are arrested, charged, and/or questioned by the police.