What Is Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm in Arizona?

unlawful discharge of a firearmDischarging a gun can be very dangerous. This is why most states, Arizona included, have strict laws about when and where shooting is allowed. A violation of these regulations will contribute to the unlawful discharge of a firearm, which is a crime in Arizona.

Arizona Unlawful Discharge Firearm Laws

A.R.S. 13-3107 stipulates that discharging a firearm within or into the limits of any municipality classifies as unlawful discharge. There are only a few exceptions to this rule.

You need to have either authority or lawful justification to shoot a gun. The exceptions to A.R.S. 13-3107 include the following:

  • Being authorized by law to shoot a gun (having a permit from the chief of police of the respective municipality)
  • Being within the confines of an authorized shooting range
  • Being in an area that’s a recognized hunting territory by the Arizona Game and Fish Department
  • Shooting a blank
  • Being more than a mile away from an occupied structure
  • Shooting in the event of self-defense or the defense of another person
  • Using the gun to control or eliminate risks/dangers caused by a wild animal

Shannon’s Law

The statute mentioned above is known as Shannon’s Law in Arizona.

It was named after a 14-year-old girl who was fatally shot by a stray bullet fired in Phoenix. The law was enacted in 2000 to make the random firing of a gun a felony offense.

Prior to the enactment of Shannon’s law, the unlawful firing of a gun was a misdemeanor offense. The girl’s parents launched a campaign after Shannon’s death, pushing for more serious penalties. During the campaign, the family traveled throughout Arizona and they received a lot of support from city officials and regular citizens.

Jane Hull, governor at the time, also expressed public support for more serious penalties in the event of random firearm discharge. The new law failed passing twice but it finally received the approval of both the state senate and state house. It was enacted in July 2000, a year and one month after the death of Shannon Smith.

Click here to find out are you entitled to a criminal public defender in Arizona.

Penalties and Sanctions

The unlawful discharge of a firearm is a Class 6 felony in Arizona. While this is the least serious felony offense, it still carries serious penalties and long-term legal consequences.

People who are found guilty of a Class 6 felony could spend up to 18 months in prison. Enhanced penalties and fines apply in the event of aggravating circumstances, for example – putting the health and wellbeing of others at serious risk.

Additional sanctions in the event of a Class 6 felony include monetary fines, probation and the loss of one’s right to possess a firearm.

Defense Scenarios

Even if it’s not possible for your lawyer to cause the dismissal of the charges against you, a good criminal defense attorney will work to minimize the scope of the sanctions.

In some instances, it’s possible to reduce a Class 6 felony to a misdemeanor charge. If a firearm is fired without causing harm or putting others at a significant risk, the court may consider reducing the severity of the charges. It’s also important for the defendant to have a clear criminal record.

While the reduced charge will be the most serious degree of misdemeanor that carries its own specific penalties, the criminal record of a defendant will remain free from felonies. That’s an important accomplishment due to the seriousness of felony charges.

Depending on the specifics of the situation, a lawyer could also be capable of having the charges dismissed altogether.

Proving self-defense is a common and effective defense scenario in the presence of witnesses. Based on the circumstances, a lawyer could also argue that the defendant has the authority to discharge the firearm, they were hunting, another person fired a weapon or that the weapon was not fired at all.

Click here for the statute on unlawful discharge of a firearm in Arizona.