Updated May 20, 2020
CRS 33-6-126 is the Colorado law that makes it a misdemeanor to shoot a firearm or arrow on or across a public road. Penalties include a $100 fine and five DMV license suspension points. Therefore, shooting from a public road carries no jail time. But defendants could face more serious charges if the shooting threatened others’ safety.
In this article, our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. Can people shoot on public roads in Colorado?
- 2. What is the punishment under CRS 33-6-126?
- 3. How can I fight the charges?
- 4. Will police confiscate the weapon?
- 5. When can the criminal record get sealed?
- 6. Related offenses
No. CRS 33-6-126 prohibits anyone from discharging a firearm or shooting an arrow:
- Upon a public road;
- From a public road; or
- Across a public road.
It makes no difference if the shooter is a passenger in a motor vehicle, a pedestrian, or in a building near the road. And this law applies to any public roadway. Including highways, city streets, and roads in residential neighborhoods.
“Firearms” include all types of guns, including pistols, revolvers, handguns, rifles, and muzzleloaders. Presumably, this law also prohibits shooting crossbows.
The only people permitted to shoot from public roads are authorized peace officer acting in the line of duty.1
It is a misdemeanor in Colorado to shoot from, on, or across a public road. It does not matter whether the weapon being shot is a firearm or an arrow. The penalty includes:
- $100 in fines, and
- Five (5) DMV license suspension points.2
Note that if the shooting threatens anyone’s physical safety, the D.A. may press charges for reckless endangerment (CRS 18-3-208). This is a class 3 misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $750 and/or up to 6 months in jail.
The best defenses to Colorado charges of shooting from a public road turn on the facts of the case and available evidence. Depending on the circumstances, five possible defenses include the following:
- The shooter was not the defendant. Police may have simply misidentified the defendant as the real shooter. Particularly if the defendant was carrying a gun (or bow) at the time. A defense attorney would search for eyewitnesses and surveillance video to help prove that the defendant was not the shooter.
- The weapon shot was not prohibited. CRS 33-6-126 specifically outlaws shooting firearms and arrows. It does not forbid shooting non-firearms, such as airguns. (However, many Colorado cities do have local laws prohibiting firing BB guns.) If the defense attorney can show that the defendant’s weapon falls outside the bounds of the statute, the D.A. should dismiss the charge.
- Someone falsely accused the defendant. Perhaps a third-party accused the defendant out of anger, revenge, or a pure misunderstanding. In these cases, the defense attorney would try to impeach the accuser’s credibility and find proof of the defendant’s innocence. Typical evidence includes recorded communications from the accuser, such as voicemails, emails, and text messages. Unless the D.A. can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, criminal charges should not stand.
- The road was private. CRS 33-6-126 applies only to cases where the shooting took place on or across a public road. If the defense attorney can show that the shooting ground was on private property, the case should be dropped.
- Self-defense. Maybe the defendant – or someone else – was being attacked and faced immediate bodily harm or death. And maybe the defendant fought back by shooting the gun. Acting in self-defense (or defense of others) does not make shooting from a road lawful. But it may justify the shooting. And the D.A. may be willing to reduce or dismiss the charges.
Note that it is not a defense that the shooting was an accident. The statute does not indicate that the defendant’s intent matters. So a shooting that occurs by mistake on or across a road is still a crime.
The statute does not mention what law enforcement officers can do and whether defendants must forfeit their weapon. It likely depends on the circumstances and locale. If police do confiscate the weapon, the defense attorney can ask the court for it back. If the court agrees, the police should comply.
A conviction for shooting on a public road must remain on the defendant’s record for five (5) years. After that, the defendant may petition for a record seal.
If the CRS 33-6-126 charge gets dismissed – meaning that there is no conviction – then there is no waiting period. The defendant can pursue a record seal right away.4
- Illegal discharge of a firearm (CRS 18-12-107.5): This is knowingly or recklessly firing a gun into any dwelling, building, occupied structure, or occupied motor vehicle. As a class 5 felony, it carries 1 to 3 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
- Possession of a weapon by a previous offender (POWPO) (CRS 18-12-108): Convicted felons who possess a weapon face a class 6 felony charge. This carries 1 to 1 ½ years in prison (with 1-year mandatory parole), and/or a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
- Prohibited use of weapons (CRS 18-12-106): This comprises knowingly and unlawfully aiming a firearm at another person, firing a gun with criminal negligence, or possessing a firearm while intoxicated. A first-time violation is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or a fine of $250 to $1,000.
- Colorado Revised Statutes 33-6-126 CRS. This law is also called the “Respect the Great Outdoors Act.” See HB 19-1026. (For information about hunting laws, visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife.)
- CRS 33-6-126. (But it may be possible to get the D.A. to agree to reduce the fine down to fifty dollars or less.)
- CRS 42-2-127; 1 CCR 211-3.
- CRS 24-72.