Under California law, you can face criminal charges for the careless or negligent discharge of a firearm, even if no injuries occurred as a result. If prosecutors can show that you were aware that the gun was loaded and you pulled the trigger anyway, even if you did not aim at a specific target, you could face criminal penalties. If you’ve been charged with the negligent discharge of a gun or firearm in Los Angeles County, here are a few things you should know about what to expect from the legal process and what steps to take to ensure that your rights are protected at every turn.
Understanding California Firearm Laws
Currently, the state of California leads the nation in the number of laws that regulate firearm use, ownership, and transactions. Even when a firearm is willfully discharged and does not inflict harm, an individual can still face criminal penalties. According to California penal code 256.3, “Except as otherwise authorized by law, any person who willfully discharges a firearm in a grossly negligent manner which could result in injury or death is guilty of a public offense and shall be punished in a county jail not exceeding one year.” In some instances, the incident may result in felony charges, which could lead to a longer period of imprisonment, a steep fine, and other restrictions on your freedom. These charges may also apply to the willful discharge of a BB device, defined as “any instrument that expels a projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, through the force of air pressure, gas pressure, or spring action.”
Defining Willful Intent and Gross Negligence
In order to convict a Los Angeles County resident of a negligent discharge offense, the prosecution must demonstrate that you were aware that the firearm was loaded and that you intentionally pulled the trigger. So, if you reasonably believed that the firearm was not loaded, you and your attorney can discuss the best way to show that you lacked willful intent at the time of the discharge. Additionally, prosecutors will need to establish that you exhibited gross negligence, which essentially means that you acted so carelessly and disrespectfully that you jeopardized the safety of others. If the incident occurred in an open field with no one around, it is harder to prove that you exhibited gross negligence.
Defending Your Future in Los Angeles County
If you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges for the negligent discharge of a firearm, it’s essential that you get in touch with a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. Remember, even if the incident didn’t cause any actual damage or harm to others, you can still face significant and lasting legal consequences. Don’t leave your future up to chance—work with your attorney to determine a solid legal strategy for obtaining the best possible outcome.
For reliable and effective criminal defense services in the Los Angeles County area, contact Wegman & Levin today at (818) 980-4000 to arrange a free consultation.