Illegal discharge of a firearm
(Colorado 18-12-107.5 C.R.S.)

car with cracked window

Shooting a gun into an occupied dwelling or motor vehicle

In Colorado, it is a felony to knowingly or recklessly discharge a firearm into:

  • any dwelling or any other building or occupied structure, or 
  • any motor vehicle occupied by any person.

The discharge can be intentional (for instance, a Colorado drive-by shooting). Or you might simply be taking potshots at a building while consciously disregarding a substantial risk that someone might be inside.

Punishment for illegal discharge of a weapon

Consequences of illegally discharging a gun into an occupied structure or motor vehicle can include:

  • Up to 3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of up to $100,000.

To help you better understand Colorado's illegal discharge of a firearm law, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

man in black pointing gun

1. What does it mean to knowingly or recklessly discharge a firearm?

Section 18-12-107.5 (1) of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) provides:

Any person who knowingly or recklessly discharges a firearm into any dwelling or any other building or occupied structure, or into any motor vehicle occupied by any person, commits the offense of illegal discharge of a firearm.

A person acts “knowingly” with respect to conduct or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware that his conduct is of such nature or that such circumstance exists. A person acts “knowingly” with respect to a result of his conduct, when he is aware that his conduct is practically certain to cause the result.1

A person acts recklessly when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists.2

Illegal discharge of a firearm does not require proof that a bullet actually entered a dwelling or the passenger compartment of a vehicle. Firing into an occupied dwelling or vehicle is a crime regardless of whether an occupant is actually endangered.3

Moreover, the word “into” has been broadly defined by Colorado courts. For purposes of 18-12-107.5 C.R.S., it is enough that a bullet grazes a shingle on the roof of a house.4 In fact, the bullet doesn't even need to pierce the exterior of the house, let alone enter its interior. Simply firing a bullet into the materials the house is built of is enough.5

2. Penalties for illegally discharging a firearm

Illegal discharge of a firearm is a Colorado class 5 felony. Potential penalties include:

  • 1-3 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

3. Defenses to unlawful discharge of a firearm

The best defense to illegal discharge of a firearm depends on the specific facts of your case. However, defenses we commonly see include (but are not limited to):

  • You were a peace officer acting within the scope of your authority and in the performance of your duties;
  • You didn't know the gun was loaded;
  • The gun went off by accident; or
  • You recklessly fired the gun into an occupied house or dwelling, but reasonably believed you needed to do in order to defend yourself or another person from harm.6

Call us for a help…

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Our compassionate Colorado defense lawyers understand that accidents happen. And when they do, we're here to help.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a drive by shooting, illegal discharge of a firearm, or another violation of Colorado's gun laws, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Simply fill out the confidential form on this page and one of our experienced Colorado criminal attorneys will get back to you promptly. Or you can reach us at our Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112


Legal references:

  1. 18-1-501 (6) C.R.S.
  2. 18-1-501 (8) C.R.S.
  3. People v. White, App.2002, 55 P.3d 220, rehearing denied.
  4. People v. Serpa, App.1999, 992 P.2d 682, certiorari denied.
  5. Same.
  6. See People v. Taylor, App.2009, 230 P.3d 1227, rehearing denied, certiorari denied 2010 WL 2026523.

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