Definition of Discharging Firearm in Public
The definition of Discharging Firearms in Public is contained in Section 790.15, Washington DC Statutes. The statute provides as follows:
[A]ny person who knowingly discharges a firearm in any public place or on the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street, who knowingly discharges any firearm over the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street or over any occupied premises, or who recklessly or negligently discharges a firearm outdoors on any property used primarily as the site of a dwelling as defined in s. 776.013 or zoned exclusively for residential use commits a misdemeanor of the first degree . . .
To prove the crime of Discharging Firearms / Weapons in Public in Washington DC, the prosecution must establish any one of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant knowingly discharged a firearm in a public place; or
- The defendant knowingly discharged a firearm on the right of way of a paved road, highway, or street; or
- The defendant knowingly discharged a firearm over the right of way of a public road, the right of way of a highway, the right of way of a street, or over occupied premises.
- See Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim) 10.6.
Meaning of ‘Pubic Place’
The term “public place is defined as any place intended or designed to be frequented or resorted to by the public. The term “knowingly” is defined as an act committed with full knowledge and intent.
Meaning of ‘Firearm’
Firearm is legally defined in Washington DC as “any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; any destructive device; or any machine gun. The term ‘firearm’ does not include an antique firearm unless the antique firearm is used in the commission of a crime.” See Section 790.001(6), Washington DC Statutes.
Penalties for Discharging a Firearm in Public
In Washington DC, Discharging Firearms in Public carries serious penalties and will be vigorously prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney.
The offense is generally classified as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one year in jail or twelve months of probation, and a $1,000 fine. Prosecutors will often seek an adjudication of guilt for even first-time offenders. This means that the accused will be facing a permanent criminal record for a weapon-related offense.
Under Section 790.15(2), Washington DC Statutes, the crime of Discharging Weapons in Public may be upgraded to a third degree felony in certain cases where the accused fires the weapon from a vehicle. In such a case, the offense carries maximum penalties of up to 5 years in prison or five years of probation and a $5,000 fine.
Defenses to Discharging Firearms in Public
In Washington DC, there are multiple defenses available to contest a charge of Discharging Firearms in Public, and no person should enter a plea without first consulting with an attorney. The more common defenses include the following:
- Discharge of weapon not knowing and intentional;
- Inability of the prosecution to prove that the weapon was discharged knowingly;
- The defendant was lawfully defending life or property;
- The defendant was lawfully performing official duties requiring discharge of firearm;
- Discharge occurred in a non-public place;
- Lack of proof as to who discharged the weapon;
- Accidental discharge of weapon;
- Lack of proof that a discharge actually occurred;
- Inability to prove that the accused’s weapon was the weapon discharged;
- Constitutional violations resulting in exclusion of State evidence.
Contact an Attorney
If you have been arrested for Discharging a Firearm in Public, you may have defenses available to contest the charge or to minimize potential penalties. contact attorneys at Cohen, Bradshaw, Rothstein and Klein today for a free consultation. Attorney Attorneys at Cohen, Bradshaw, Rothstein and Klein handles cases throughout Southeast and Central Washington DC.