Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm in Virginia
Any firearm that is discharged in a controlled setting such as a firing range or something like that is permitted under Virginia law. A person may discharge a firearm while engaged in the practice of hunting presuming, of course, that all other requirements are met such as licensure and they must ensure that the hunting is taking place within the boundary limits of residential neighborhoods, and streets, and things of that nature.
There are conditions that are required to be met while engaged in hunting, and one should consult all of the hunting laws for the area in which they choose to hunt because they are different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Range shooting, hunting shooting, those things are always going to be legal as long as they comply with all of the regulations therein.
If you have been charged with an unlawful discharge, contact a knowledgeable Virginia gun attorney. When you talk with them they will let you know what is the next step and how to start a defense that will provide the best outcome.
Conditions of an Unlawful Discharge
If a person is not on a range and if they are not hunting then the odds are they probably going to be violating the law because if they are shooting in or around a residential area, most folks are going to consider that to be a reckless handling of a firearm or a reckless discharge of a firearm. Obviously, if a person shoots at something, whether it be an occupied dwelling, or an unoccupied dwelling, or a car, or anything of that nature, that is a crime in Virginia. Basically, any discharge of a weapon that is intended to or has the possibility of injuring someone or damaging property is likely going to be charged as some sort of crime in Virginia.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of different statutes that can be charged if a person illegally discharges a firearm, and it depends entirely upon the facts and circumstances surrounding that discharge. It could be something as benign as a reckless handling of a firearm which is a misdemeanor all the way up to felonies such as shooting an unoccupied dwelling, or shooting in a car, or shooting at any place where there are or might be persons inside.
It depends entirely upon what the police determine to be the intentions of the person firing a weapon, and the circumstances surrounding it, and the location in which it occurred. There are far too many variables to go through each of these scenarios but, if a person discharges a firearm in any unsafe way, they are going to be looking at some kind of criminal offense.
Gun-Free Zone Penalties
There are several different categories of gun-free zones in Virginia. There are certain localities where a person can not carry a gun at all. Certainly, in schools, churches, most public colleges and universities, courthouses, and each of those have statutes or regulations which govern the penalties for even possessing a weapon in those places much less firing a weapon in those places. It depends on where a person would be in order to determine what the penalties for that might be.
The primary defense is a mistake or lack of intent. Crimes like these are very serious and all serious crimes require that the offender who is charged have the intent of doing something that caused that firearm to engage and be fired. A mistake, perhaps if a person is charged with reckless handling of a firearm or reckless discharge of a firearm, can certainly be a defense to that charge.