Crimes involving guns are among the most serious crimes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While the U.S. Constitution gives all citizens the right to bear arms, states and the federal government have placed serious limits on this right. It is important to understand these limits so that you do not end up charged with a crime like felony discharge of a firearm. Felony discharge of a firearm is an especially serious gun charge in Allentown, and throughout Pennsylvania, as it is a third-degree felony and can result in extensive jail time.
At Young Marr & Associates, our experienced Allentown, PA felony discharge of a firearm lawyers have years of experience working in the local court system and bringing our clients’ matters to successful resolutions. Our compassionate, caring lawyers will guide you through every step of the often scary and disorienting process of being charged with a crime. We will be here to answer all your questions and fight to get your charges dismissed or downgraded. If you have been charged with felony discharge of a firearm in Allentown, PA, call Young Marr & Associates today at (215) 372-8667 to consult with one of our attorneys.
Felony Discharge of a Firearm in Allentown
Felony discharge of a firearm sounds like a broad charge that could include a lot of criminal situations. For example, it is certainly a criminal act to discharge a firearm if the bullet injures or kills someone, or if the bullet damages someone’s property. However, the statute for felony discharge of a firearm, 18 Pa.C.S § 2707.1, actually refers to a very specific situation.
Under this statute, a person can be charged with felony discharge of a firearm only if they knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly discharge a firearm from any location into an occupied structure. As such, shooting a person or an object will not qualify for this charge if the bullet is not fired into an occupied structure.
Charges for Firing a Weapon into an Occupied Structure in Allentown
When you think of an “occupied structure,” you might conjure up images of a house with a family inside of it. However, the actual definition is broader than that. Under the definition in the statute, a number of different places may qualify as an occupied structure:
- First, any place, such as a house, apartment, or hotel, that has been fitted for “overnight accommodation” of people qualifies as an occupied structure.
- Second, any place adapted for “carrying on business,” such an office, bar, or restaurant, qualifies as an occupied structure.
- Third, a vehicle would qualify as an occupied structure if it has been fitted for overnight use or for carrying on a business. For example, an RV or trailer where people live or a food truck equipped for the business of selling tacos would qualify.
The somewhat counterintuitive aspect of the definition is that each of these places qualifies as an occupied structure whether or not a person is actually inside of it at the time the firearm is discharged. This means that if a house or vehicle where people usually live is empty and you shoot a gun into it, the felony discharge of a firearm charge can be filed against you even if the people who live there were not actually home when you fired the shot. Similarly, if you shoot a bullet into a business or restaurant when it is closed and unoccupied, you can still be charged with felony discharge of a firearm.
Penalties for a Felony Discharge of a Firearm Conviction in Allentown
Felony discharge of a firearm is charged as a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania. Penalties for a third-degree felony can include up to 7 years in prison as well as up to $15,000 in fines.
Furthermore, conviction of a felony in Pennsylvania can result in a range of other punishments that extend long beyond your prison sentence. These include restrictions on future ownership of a gun, running for public office, serving on a jury, or obtaining financial aid for college or government benefits.
Defenses to Felony Discharge of a Firearm Charges
Under the statute, there is a list of specific defenses to felony discharge of a firearm charges. This list is certainly not exhaustive, and an experienced Allentown, PA felony discharge of a firearm attorney like those at Young Marr & Associates can help you craft a successful defense once they understand the particular facts of your case. However, the defenses below are always available.
First, if the person discharging the firearm was a law enforcement official in the performance of their official duties, that person has a valid defense to the charge of felony discharge of a firearm.
Second, if the person discharging the firearm was engaged in the act of hunting, that person has a valid defense so long as certain conditions are met:
The first condition that must be met is that the hunting activity must be lawful in the area where the firearm was discharged. So, if you are firing a gun in the middle of a city where it is illegal to hunt, this defense will not be available to you.
The second condition is that passage of the bullet into the structure cannot have been intentional, knowing, or reckless. This means that it must have been merely negligent, i.e., that the person firing the gun did not specifically know that firing it would create a substantial risk of a bullet entering the structure.
Call Today to Speak with One of Our Knowledgeable Allentown Felony Discharge of a Firearm Defense Attorneys
Felony discharge of a firearm is a serious crime that can bring about serious penalties, some of which may last for many years or even the rest of your life. It is vital to get in touch with one of our Allentown, PA felony discharge of a firearm attorneys at Young Marr & Associates as soon as you know you are under investigation or being charged with this crime. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get to work on getting the charges dropped or reduced for you and preventing you from having to deal with potentially serious consequences. Call us today at (215) 372-8667 to schedule a free consultation.