CRS 18-12-107.5 is the Colorado statute that prohibits the illegal discharge of a firearm, which means knowingly or recklessly shooting into a home, building, or occupied structure or automobile. The offense is a class 5 felony punishable by one to three years in prison and $1,000 to $100,000 in fines.
Common defenses include that the defendant was merely negligent, or the defendant was acting in self-defense
CRS 18-12-107.5 states that “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.”
In this article, our 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?
The illegal discharge of a firearm has two elements:
- A person knowingly or recklessly fires a gun
- Into a dwelling, building, occupied structure, or occupied motor vehicle
1.1. Knowingly or recklessly
People act knowingly when they are aware that their conduct is practically certain to cause the end result. So when a person knowingly shoots a gun aimed at a trailer, that person fully realizes that the bullet will most likely hit the trailer.1
Meanwhile, people act recklessly when they consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk. So when a person recklessly waves around a loaded gun near a trailer, that person is assuming the likelihood that the gun will go off and hit the trailer.2
In sum, an illegal discharge of a firearm can be intentional, such as a drive-by shooting into a car or building. Or an illegal discharge of a firearm can be extremely careless, such as taking potshots at a building while purposely ignoring the risk that someone may be inside. But an illegal discharge of a firearm does not comprise situations that are innocent accidents or where the person acted merely negligently.
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, Colorado courts broadly define the word into.4 The bullet does not 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 – 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.
The best defense to illegal discharge of a firearm depends on the specific facts of each case. Six potential defenses include:
- The defendant was not knowing or reckless but just negligent.
- The defendant did not know the gun was loaded.
- The defendant reasonably fired the gun in self-defense or defense of others. 6
- Someone else fired the gun, and the defendant is the victim of mistaken identity.
- The defense was falsely accused by someone else.
- The defendant was a peace officer acting within the scope of his/her authority and in the performance of his/her duties.
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. But if the charge gets dismissed, then there is no waiting period to pursue a record seal.8 Learn how to seal Colorado criminal records.
For help with Colorado gun laws and criminal defense, call us or fill out the confidential form on this page. One of our experienced Colorado criminal attorneys will get back to you promptly. Our Denver home office is located at:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211