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I Was Arrested for Unlawful Discharge of a Weapon: Fines, Penalties, Costs, and Sentencing


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Sometimes called negligent discharge or unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful discharge is forbidden in all 50 states. In addition, many localities have specific ordinances restricting the discharge of a firearm. What's more, some states include crossbows and blowguns in these laws.

Prohibitions against firing a weapon typically name particular areas, such as across a state highway, from within a moving vehicle, or firing toward and/or into a building.

What are the Penalties for Conviction of Unlawful Discharge of a Weapon?

Negligent discharge may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the state. Penalties are higher for felonies. In addition, aggravating factors such as prior criminal history result in harsher penalties. These include:

  • Fines: These vary according to the charges, whether any property was damaged in the incident, and whether the arresting agency is a state or local entity, with local entities typically levying lower fines than state agencies.
  • Firearms restriction: Felony convictions result in prohibitions against owning a firearm and require you to relinquish any weapons you own.
  • Incarceration: Typically, unlawful discharge of a weapon is punished and charged as a misdemeanor, meaning convictions result in little to no time in jail, with 12 months generally being the longest sentence for a misdemeanor.
  • Probation: For first offenses, probation is typical, with sentences lasting up to 12 months. Requirements include regular meetings with your probation officer, community service, drug screening, and remaining crime-free. Failure to meet the terms of probation may result in serving jail time or receiving extra time on your probation sentence.

What are the Penalties for Unlawful Discharge of a Weapon in Arizona?

The state of Arizona refers to this as Shannon's Law. To be found in violation, you must demonstrate criminal negligence AND discharge a firearm within one mile of an occupied building.

Criminal negligence is failure to act with the level of care a reasonable person would use. This means that, even if you did not mean to discharge your weapon, certain actions would lead a reasonable person to expect that possibility.

Arizona charges this as a Class 6 felony with "allegation of dangerousness." Conviction results in the following penalties:

  • First offense: Mandatory minimum sentence of 1.5 years, with a presumptive sentence of 2.25 years and maximum sentence of 3 years
  • Second offense: Mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years, with a presumptive sentence of 3.75 years and maximum sentence of 4.5 years
  • Three or more offenses: Mandatory minimum sentence of 4.5 years, with a presumptive sentence of 5.25 years and maximum sentence of 6 years

What are the Penalties for Unlawful Discharge of a Weapon in California?

California defines negligent discharge of a firearm as intentionally discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, which could conceivably result in the injury or death of another person.

The prosecution gets to choose whether to charge this as a felony or misdemeanor, which means aggravating and mitigating factors play a large role in both charges and penalties. If charged with a misdemeanor, you face up to 12 months in county jail. Felony convictions result in a sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years.

What are the Penalties for Unlawful Discharge of a Weapon in Michigan?

Michigan prohibits the careless, reckless, or negligent use of a firearm, including firing during celebrations or in populated areas.

Firing a weapon without caution and regard for the safety of others or their property leads to a misdemeanor charge. It is also a misdemeanor if carelessness, negligence, or recklessness results in the discharge of a gun you control that kills another person. The maximum penalty is 2 years in prison and fines up to $2,000. You may also face misdemeanor charges if the weapon discharge damages someone's property. Penalties depend on the value of the destroyed property. Damages less than $50 result in a maximum fine of $100, with a maximum sentence of 90 days in county jail. If damages exceed $50, the maximum penalty is $500, with up to 12 months in county jail.

In Michigan, even when a crime is labeled a misdemeanor, if you spend time in prison, the conviction is treated as a felony.

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If you were arrested for unlawful discharge of a weapon, schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney. He or she will discuss the facts of your case and offer advice on possible next steps.

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