ARS 13-3107 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of the unlawful discharge of a firearm. People commit this offense when, with criminal negligence, they shoot a firearm within or into the limits of a city or town. A violation of this law is a Class 6 felony that is punishable by up to three years in state prison.
The language of ARS 13-3107 states: “A person who with criminal negligence discharges a firearm within or into the limits of any municipality is guilty of a class 6 felony.”
- Shooting a gun on private property within the confines of a town.
- Firing a rifle up into the air at a town park.
- Discharging a pistol in the parking lot of a city’s private school.
Criminal defense lawyers can draw upon a defense strategy to contest charges of unlawful discharge of firearms. For example, an attorney can show that an accused:
- did not act with criminal negligence,
- is exempt under the law, and/or
- acted out of necessity.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define the “unlawful discharge of a firearm”?
People in Arizona are guilty under this criminal code section if they:
- discharge a firearm within or into the limits of a municipality, and
- do so with criminal negligence.i
This law is sometimes referred to as “Shannon’s law,” after 14-year-old Shannon Smith was fatally struck with a stray bullet while in the backyard of her Phoenix home.
For purposes of this section, “criminal negligence” means that a person fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a certain result will occur or that certain circumstances exist. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it marks a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.ii
“Municipality” means any city or town.iii
Note that there are several exceptions under this statute that allow a person to discharge a firearm within city limits without facing criminal charges. For example, ARS 13-3107 does not apply if a firearm is discharged:
- on a properly supervised shooting range,
- to lawfully take wildlife during an open season established by the Arizona game and fish commission,
- for the control of nuisance wildlife by permit from the Arizona game and fish department or the United States fish and wildlife service,
- by special permit of the chief of police of the municipality,
- as required by an animal control officer in the performance of his/her duties,
- using blanks,
- when the person is more than one mile of an occupied structure, and
- in self-defense or defense of another person against an animal attack.iv
Arizona courts have ruled that this law does not violate a person’s right to bear arms.v
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-3107?
People accused of a crime pursuant to this criminal law have the right to challenge the accusation with a legal defense. Three common defenses include defendants showing that they:
- did not act with criminal negligence.
- are exempt under the law.
- acted out of necessity.
2.1 No criminal negligence
Recall that people are only guilty under this law if they shot a firearm and did so with criminal negligence. A defense, then, is for an accused to show that he/she did not act in this manner. Maybe, for example, a person had a handgun that he/she thought was unloaded and fired it on complete accident.
2.2 Exempt under the law
Also recall that there are several exceptions under this statute where a person can discharge a firearm and still avoid guilt. This means it is always a defense for a person to say that his/her actions fell under one of these exceptions.
Under a necessity defense, a defendant tries to avoid guilt by showing that he/she had a sufficiently good reason to commit a crime. In the context of discharging a firearm, an accused could attempt to show that he committed the crime since he had no other choice (for example, because of an emergency).
3. What are the penalties?
A conviction under ARS 13-3107 is a felony offense. In particular, a conviction is a Class 6 felony.vi
The crime is punishable by a prison sentence of between four months and two years.
If a defendant discharged a deadly weapon, then the crime is considered a dangerous offense and is punishable by a prison sentence of between one year, six months and three years.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to the unlawful discharge of a firearm. These include:
- aggravated assault – ARS 13-1204,
- disorderly conduct – ARS 13-2904, and
- negligent homicide – ARS 13-1102.
4.1 Aggravated assault – ARS 13-1204
Per ARS 13-1204, aggravated assault is the crime where someone:
- assaults another person, and
- does so by means of certain aggravating factors (for example, assaulting someone with deadly or concealed weapons).
Aggravated assault is considered a more severe crime than the unlawful discharge of a firearm and can lead to a Class 2 felony charge.
4.2 Disorderly conduct – ARS 13-2904
Under ARS 13-2904, disorderly conduct is the offense where someone:
- knowingly engages in a certain type of disruptive behavior (like making loud noise or using offensive language), and
- does so with the intent to disturb the peace or the quiet of a neighborhood, family, or a person.
Unlike with this statute, ARS 13-3107 does not require that a person act while knowing that he/she is breaking the law. The statute only requires that a person act with criminal negligence.
4.3 Negligent homicide – ARS 13-1102
Under ARS 13-1102, negligent homicide is the crime where someone causes the death of another person by means of a criminally negligent act.
Note that if someone shoots a gun in public, and the stray bullet kills someone, a police officer/law enforcement agent can likely charge the shooter with both:
- unlawful discharge of a firearm, and
- negligent homicide.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys can help you and they provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3107 Subsection A.
- ARS 13-105(10)(d).
- ARS 13-3107D1.
- ARS 13-3107C.
- City of Tucson v. Rineer, 193 Ariz. 160 (1998).
- ARS 13-3107A.