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Virginia Discharging Firearms in Public Places Charges

Discharging firearms in a public place can be a very serious offense with severe consequences and therefore warrants attention from a Virginia gun lawyer. The following is more information on what this charge entails and how an attorney may be able to assist you. To learn more call and schedule a free consultation today.

Penalties For Discharging a Gun in a Public Place

Discharging firearms in public can result in several types of cases with different degrees of seriousness, depending on the facts and circumstances. Discharging a firearm at a dwelling place is a very serious offense pursuant to Virginia Code Section 18.2 – 279.  If the act was done with malice, intent to cause harm, or other enumerated intents, then the offense is a class 4 felony.  If the discharge in a dwelling place was done without malice or intent to injure, then it is a class 6 felony. Additionally, if someone is killed and the death involved malicious shooting in a dwelling house, the person may be guilty of murder in the second degree. If they did it on purpose it will be murder in the first degree

Discharging a firearm in a public place is a Class 1 misdemeanor if no one is injured and a class 6 felony if injury occurs.  This offense is governed by Virginia Code Section 18.2-280.

Shooting a firearm in a public place which does not involve an injury is a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to Virginia Code Section 18.2 – 280. However, if the person discharges or causes the discharge of a firearm in a public place and such conduct results in injury to another person, then that is a Class 6 felony. If it is at a school it is a Class 4 felony. If it is within the grounds of a school then it is a Class 4 felony, unless it is a school on whose premises the person is engaged in lawful hunting an appropriate distance away from the school.

When Are Some Exceptions to this Prohibition?

The two common exceptions for brandishing are also applicable for discharging a firearm in a public place. The public discharge law under 18.2 – 280 does not apply to law enforcement officers performing their official duties or to a person acting in a justifiable or excusable way to protect their own life or property. It also does not apply if discharging the firearm is otherwise authorized. In summary, police, acting to defend your home, defending a person, and defending your property legally in Virginia are exceptions where you can legally discharge a firearm.

Potential Defenses

Number one, that you did not discharge it. The most obvious defense is that you did not in fact discharge the firearm. They may have the wrong person, and there is an identity issue.

Number two, that the firearm was not truly a firearm under the Virginia Code definition.

Number three, that it was not a public place, and instead was private property. Those are some of the potential defenses and this list is not exhaustive. If you believe you may have additional potential defenses, contact a Virginia gun lawyer right away.

How This Law Applies to Hunting

There is an exception for lawful hunting. Typically hunting does not occur on public property in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mostly it occurs on private land and if you are engaged in hunting you are probably going to be 1000 feet away from the property line of public, private or personal property. If you are more than 1000 feet from the property line of a house and you are lawfully hunting, then you are exempted from the statute which disallows discharge of firearms in a public place.  Hunting that occurs on public-use lands has specific rules and regulations that apply.

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