ARS 13-3107 simply states that “A person who with criminal negligence discharges a firearm within or into the limits of any municipality.” This offense is categorized as a class 6 felony.
Meaning of Criminal Negligence
Criminal negligence is a key condition of this statute; not knowing that it is against the law to fire a weapon within city limits is not a valid defense in Arizona. As defined by Nolo, “criminal negligence occurs when the defendant should have been aware of the risk.” This means that there was a reasonable amount of responsibility that the person had to understand the consequences of their actions. In ignoring these responsibilities there is a degree of recklessness that the courts consider as criminal.
There are circumstances in which discharging a weapon within city limits is not a criminal act. ARS 13-3107 Section C allows weapons to be discharged within Arizona city limits if:
- You are on a properly supervised range.
- A permit from the Arizona Game and Fish Department or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has been granted to eliminate a “nuisance animal”
- A “special permit” of the chief of police of the municipality has been granted to the person
- It is required by an animal control officer for the purpose of their job
- Blanks are being used
- The person is more than one mile from any occupied structure
- If it is in self-defense or defense of another person against an animal attack if it is reasonable and/or necessary
- It is for hunting during open season
The last point does not prevent a city, town or county from adopting a rule for addition restrictions within one-fourth mile of an occupied structure.
The state of Arizona has certain minimums and limits for each criminal degree, as outlined by ARS 13-704. A class six felony like this has a minimum jail sentence of one and a half years to three years, with a mitigated sentence of two years and three months.
Section L. These penalties, however can be changed for
“the penalties otherwise authorized by law if an allegation of prior conviction is charged in the indictment or information and admitted or found by the court or if an allegation of dangerous offense is charged in the indictment or information and admitted or found by the trier of fact”
This means that if there is evidence given to the trier of fact—a term that refers to the jury or judge—that proves that the incident was especially dangerous to the public, and goes on to say that the penalties can be adjusted to be more strict than the typical sixth degree felony guidelines.
Felony Charges for Discharging a Weapon
A felony conviction is the most severe punishment that a person can receive. Even though a discharging weapon felony charge is the lowest degree, it still carries lifetime consequences. If convicted of a felony, a person can lose rights such as voting and bearing arms. A criminal record will follow a person convicted of a felony and are legally required to disclose their felony conviction to any prospective employer that chooses to ask. This leaves the person convicted with a heavy amount of restrictions in their day to day lives.
Lowering Felony Charge to Misdemeanor
Because of the weight that a felony conviction can carry is that severe of a consequence, the court is allowed to use its own judgement so long as they are following the guideline set forth by the Arizona Revised Statutes. These guidelines give more room to choose how the penalties are doled out and how the charges will affect the person’s future.
Arizona Revised Statute 13-604 describes the circumstances in which a class six felony crime such as this one can actually be downgraded to a class one misdemeanor. Although this is the most serious degree of misdemeanor and has penalties of its own, the person is able to maintain their rights after completing their sentence and keep their record felony free.
If the specific circumstance in which the weapon was fired was not seen as a dangerous threat or if the actions do not seem like felonious behavior, then the prosecuting attorney—representing the state—can request the charge to be lowered to a misdemeanor crime. They can do this by filing:
- information in superior court designating the offense as a misdemeanor
- a complaint designating the offense as a misdemeanor within the jurisdiction of the respective court
- a complaint, with the consent of the defendant, before or during the preliminary hearing amending the complaint to charge a misdemeanor.
These guidelines give the defendant an opportunity to be judged more fairly by the courts rather than having an unfair penalty that does not fit their specific situations.
Court Guidelines for Felony Charges
Although this can be a very helpful way to avoid a felony charge, there are people who do not fulfill the requirements that it takes to use the statute. This statute can only be used if the person charged has no other prior felony convictions or history of violence. If the person charged is charged with another crime, regardless of it is related to the weapon discharge or a separate criminal act entirely, they will follow penalties that are more severe. The court also abides by the following guidelines when dealing with criminal history or multiple charges:
- The court shall allow the allegation of a prior conviction or the allegation of a dangerous offense at any time before the date the case is actually tried
- An allegation cannot be used if it is filed fewer than twenty (20) days before the case is actually tried and the court that the defendant was in fact misjudged because of the untimely filing
- If the allegation of a prior conviction is filed, copies of material about prior convictions must be available to the defendant
- The charge of prior conviction won’t not be read to the jury in order to avoid prejudice.
How JacksonWhite Can Help
All of these complex misdemeanor and felony guidelines are meant to be used as a broad scope that allows the courts to scrutinize each defendant and impose a sentence that is seen as fit.
Whether you have multiple offenses or have never been convicted of a crime and are facing discharging a weapon charges, JacksonWhite Criminal Defense attorneys understand what good representation can do for a case of this magnitude. Hire an attorney with the experience that can find a legal path that best suits you and your circumstances.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.