CRS § 18-12-107.5 is the Colorado law prohibiting the illegal discharge of a firearm. You commit this crime if you knowingly or recklessly shoot into a home, building, occupied structure or automobile. A conviction is a class 5 felony punishable by
- 1 to 3 years in prison, and
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines.
Common defenses include that
- you were merely negligent or
- you were acting in self-defense
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will answer the following key questions:
- 1. What is the illegal discharge of a firearm in Colorado?
- 2. What is the penalty under CRS 18-12-107.5?
- 3. What are ways to fight the charges?
- 4. Are there immigration consequences?
- 5. Can I seal my criminal record?
- 6. Further reading
The illegal discharge of a firearm has two elements:
- You knowingly or recklessly fire a gun
- Into a dwelling, building, occupied structure, or occupied motor vehicle1
1.1. Knowingly or recklessly
You act knowingly when you are aware that your conduct is practically certain to cause the end result. So when you knowingly shoot a gun aimed at a trailer, you fully realize that the bullet will most likely hit the trailer.
Meanwhile, you act recklessly when consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk. So when you recklessly wave around a loaded gun near a trailer, you are assuming the likelihood that the gun will go off and hit the trailer.2
1.2. Into a building or occupied motor vehicle
To prove illegal discharge of a firearm, prosecutors do not have to show 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 bullet does not even need to pierce the exterior of the house, let alone enter its interior.4 Simply firing a bullet into the materials the house is built of – such as grazing a roof shingle – is sufficient to qualify as illegal discharge of a firearm.5
Illegal discharge of a firearm is a class 5 felony in Colorado. The sentence is:
- 1 to 3 years in Colorado State Prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
- A fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
Because this crime is a felony, a conviction strips you of the right of gun ownership and possession.
2.1. Plea bargains
In many cases, we can get this charge reduced to prohibited use of a weapon (CRS 18-12-106). This is typically prosecuted in cases of accidental discharges where the bullet does not enter a structure or vehicle. As a class 1 misdemeanor, it carries up to 364 days in jail and/or $1,000.
The best defense to illegal discharge of a firearm depends on the specific facts of each case. Seven potential defenses include:
- You were not knowing or reckless but just criminally negligent.
- You did not know the gun was loaded and thought you were just “dry firing.”
- You reasonably fired the gun in self-defense or defense of others. 6
- Someone else fired the gun, and you are the victim of mistaken identity.
- You were falsely accused by someone else.
- You were a peace officer acting within the scope of your authority and performing your duties.
- Law enforcement committed misconduct, such as coercing a confession (be sure never to speak to police without your lawyer).
In our experience, many of these cases are innocent accidents where the gun went off while showing it to a friend or while cleaning it, and the gun owner had mistakenly forgotten to put on the safety lock.
In some cases, we can call upon firearm expert witnesses to examine what happened and testify that the evidence indicates you are innocent.
Yes. Gun-related convictions are usually grounds for deportation in the U.S.7 Consequently, non-citizens facing charges of illegal firearm discharge should consult an experienced lawyer right away. It may be possible to get the charge dropped or reduced to a non-deportable crime.
Convictions for illegal discharge of a firearm may be sealed three years after the case ends. However, if the charge gets dismissed, then there is no waiting period to pursue a record seal.8
Having any felony conviction on your record can hurt your employment prospects. Learn how to seal Colorado criminal records.
For more information on Colorado gun laws, refer to our related articles:
- shooting from a public road (CRS 33-6-126)
- defacing a firearm (CRS 18-12-104)
- possession of a defaced firearm (CRS 18-12-103)
- unlawful purchase of a firearm (CRS 18-12-111)
- possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle (CRS 33-6-125)
- providing a firearm to a juvenile (CRS 18-12-108.7)
- juvenile handgun possession (CRS 18-12-108.5)
- CRS 18-12-107.5 – Illegal discharge of a firearm – penalty.
(1) 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.
(2) It shall not be an offense under this section if the person who discharges a firearm in violation of subsection (1) of this section is a peace officer as described in section 16-2.5-101, C.R.S., acting within the scope of such officer’s authority and in the performance of such officer’s duties.
(3) Illegal discharge of a firearm is a class 5 felony.
- CRS 18-1-501.
- People v. White (App. 2002) 55 P.3d 220.
- People v. Serpa (App. 1999) 992 P.2d 682.
- See People v. Taylor (App. 2009) 230 P.3d 1227.
- 8 U.S.C. § 1227.
- CRS 24-72.