In Philadelphia, unlawful discharge of a firearm carries serious penalties. Due to the large number of people in the city, local authorities feel gun laws must be strict in order to protect the public. Those facing firearm charges, however, may feel the penalties are too harsh.
If you were charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A conviction could result in years in prison, but a dedicated lawyer could fight to protect your interests.
In the City and County of Philadelphia, inclusive of the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, gun charges are treated in a possessory way. Any time an individual is charged with a crime involving a firearm, the individual may be charged for possessing the firearm. Under the Uniform Firearms Act, this is a felony of the third degree carrying a sentence of three and a half to seven years’ incarceration and a $15,000 fine. When dealing with the unlawful firing of such firearm, the individual faces not only the felony three but also any other charge of a criminal act as a result of the firing of such weapon.
The most common charges that follow firing a weapon include recklessly endangering another individual or individuals, which are graded as misdemeanors of the second degree and could lead to a five-year period of incarceration and a $5,000 fine. An individual could also face charges of aggravated assault, which is a felony of either the first or second degree carrying up to another ten to 20 years’ incarceration and $25,000 fine.
This does not include any other charges, like robbery, burglary, or any other felonies and misdemeanors that occur when the individual unlawfully discharges a firearm. It leads to aggravated sentences involving not only the underlying crime of possession of a firearm, but the dispelling of a cartridge and/or shot, leading to other charges being filed.
In a gun-free zone, like the City and County of Philadelphia, no guns are permitted in any way, shape, or form. The fact that a firearm was fired or expelled a shell, cartridge, or bullet in such a zone does not affect how the crime is charged. Merely possessing a firearm in a gun-free zone in an unlawful manner carries charges of violating the Uniform Firearms Act.
The most common defenses to the allegation of an unlawful discharge of a firearm are self-defense. First and foremost, it is an affirmative defense. The individual and their defense attorney make an argument to suggest that at the time they fired the gun, they were being threatened with serious bodily injury. For example, they may have been fired upon, and as a result, they returned the fire.
In other cases, it could be a mens rea problem, meaning the person did not intend to have the lawful firearm go off. In those cases, the courts must balance the need to protect society and to determine whether the person acted in good or bad faith when the firearm discharged.
Some cases involve mistakes in discharging for which individuals may be investigated, but in the end, the individual did not intend to commit a crime. Additionally, firearms could be lawfully discharged in certain location when safety precautions have been met and that is the purpose of such a location.
If you were accused of unlawful discharge of a firearm in Philadelphia, you could face penalties including heavy fines and jail time. With help from a veteran defense lawyer, however, you could fight back. An attorney could analyze the prosecution’s evidence and poke holes in the case. Call today to set up a case review.