"Discharging a firearm in public" in Nevada (NRS 202.280)

NRS 202.280 forbids shooting a gun in a public place in Nevada. This is a crime even if nobody sustains injuries from the gunfire.

NRS 202.280 violations are typically prosecuted as Nevada misdemeanors, carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. But this crime can be charged as a category B felony in Nevada if both:

  • the defendant is acting maliciously and wantonly, and
  • the gun is being fired from -- or within -- a vehicle or a structure

This category B felony carries 2 to 15 years in Nevada State Prison and/or $5,000 in fines. However, it is always possible to negotiate with prosecutors in pursuit of a favorable Nevada plea deal. Three potential defenses include:

  • The gun was fired in a private space;
  • The defendant was falsely accused; or
  • The defendant was acting in accordance with Nevada self-defense laws

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of discharging a firearm in public. Click on a topic below to jump directly to that section:

gun in school
A person does not need to be injured for "discharging a gun in public" to be a crime in Nevada.

1. Legal definition of discharging a firearm in public in Nevada

A person violates NRS 202.280 by shooting a gun into a public place. Therefore, this is a very broad crime that covers a variety of circumstances:

  • It makes no difference whether the defendant is acting maliciously, recklessly, or merely negligently.
  • It does not matter whether the defendant is intoxicated or not.
  • It is immaterial whether the location is indoors or outdoors as long as it is public.
  • The defendant can still face charges whether or not anyone gets injured by the shooting.
  • It is irrelevant whether the defendant physically shoots the gun or "causes" it to be discharged. An example of this would be the defendant hiring or conspiring with someone else to do the actual shooting.

Even police officers who neglect their duty to arrest a person who shoots a gun in a public place will face criminal charges themselves.

Note that NRS 202.280 also prohibits the less common scenario of throwing a deadly missile in any place where a person could be endangered.1

2. Penalties for shooting a gun in public in Nevada

Violating NRS 202.280 is generally punished as a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum of 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. But this crime becomes a category B felony if:

silhouette of man with gun
Discharging a gun in public can be a misdemeanor or a felony in Nevada.
  • the defendant is acting maliciously and wantonly, and
  • the gun is being fired from -- or within -- a vehicle or a structure

In this case, the sentence is:

  • 2 to 15 years in prison, and/or
  • up to $5,000 in fines

2.1. Police officers who fail to arrest defendants for firing a gun in public

Peace officers who neglect to arrest people for firing a gun in public can be convicted themselves of a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence carries:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines2

3. Fighting charges for shooting a gun in public in Nevada

Possible defenses to charges of discharging a firearm in public include:

  1. The gun was not fired in a public place;
  2. The defendant was falsely accused; or
  3. The defendant was acting in lawful self-defense or defense of others

In every criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt should the case go to trial. As long as a defense attorney can raise that reasonable doubt by showing that the D.A.'s evidence is too weak, the charge should be dropped.

4. Deportation for discharging a weapon

firearm
Firearm offenses are deportable.

Firearm offenses are generally deportable. Consequently, aliens who have been charged with a gun crime are advised to seek legal counsel right away.

An experienced attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor to dismiss or reduce the charge to a non-deportable offense.3 Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

5. Sealing records for shooting a gun in public in Nevada

Nevada law is unclear about whether an NRS 202.280 violation qualifies as a "crime of violence." If it does, then there is a ten (10) year waiting period after the case ends before a defendant may try to seal a record of conviction.

But if an NRS 202.280 violation does not qualify as a "crime of violence," the waiting period to pursue a record seal depends on the particular conviction:4

Type of NRS 202.280 conviction

Waiting period to get a Nevada record seal

Category B felony

5 years after the case ends

Gross misdemeanor

2 years after the case ends

Misdemeanor

1 year after the case ends

Note that there is no waiting period to pursue a record seal for criminal charges that get dismissed (meaning there is no conviction).5 Learn more about how to seal Nevada criminal records.

6. Related offenses

6.1. Discharging a firearm from a structure or vehicle (NRS 202.287)

It is a crime in Nevada for a person to wantonly or maliciously shoot a gun from inside a vehicle or inside a structure. If the location of the gun is within a statutorily-recognized populated area, this crime is a category B felony, carrying:

  • 2 to 15 years in prison, and/or
  • up to $5,000 in fines

Otherwise, discharging a gun is only a misdemeanor, carrying:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

Learn more about the Nevada crime of discharging a firearm from a structure or vehicle and Nevada "drive-by shooting" laws.

6.2. Firing guns into structures or vehicles (NRS 202.285)

firearm
Firing a gun from a car or building can be a category B felony in Nevada.

It is a crime in Nevada to willfully and maliciously fire a gun at or into a vehicle, structure, aircraft, or watercraft. Firing a gun at or into an abandoned structure, vehicle, etc., is generally a misdemeanor, carrying:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

But if the gun is being fired from a car or structure in a populated area, this crime becomes a category B felony, carrying:

  • 2 to 15 years in prison, and/or
  • up to $5,000 in fines

Meanwhile, causing a gun to be fired at or into an occupied vehicle or structure is also a category B felony in Nevada, carrying:

  • 1 to 6 years in prison, and/or
  • up to $5,000 in fines

Learn more about the Nevada crime of discharging a firearm into a structure or building.

6.3. Aiming a gun at a person (NRS 202.290)

It is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada to point a gun at another person. The sentence carries up to 364 days in jail, and/or up to $2,000 in fines.

Learn more about the Nevada crime of aiming a gun at a human being.

6.4. Brandishing a gun (NRS 202.320)

It is a misdemeanor to draw a gun in a rude, threatening, or angry manner. The sentence carries up to 6 months in jail, and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Learn more about the Nevada crime of brandishing a gun.

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Arrested on a gun charge in Nevada? Contact our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702) 333-3673 for a FREE consult. We will draw upon our negotiation and litigation skills in pursuit of a full dismissal or reduction. We are also prepared to go all the way to trial if necessary.

Arrested in California? See our article on the California crime of negligent discharge of a firearm | 246.3 PC.

Arrested in Colorado? See our article on the Colorado crime of illegal discharge of a firearm | 18-12-107.5 C.R.S.


Legal References

  1. NRS 202.280 Discharging firearm in or upon public streets or in places of public resort; throwing deadly missiles; duties of civil, military and peace officers; penalties.

          1. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 202.287, a person, whether under the influence of liquor, a controlled substance or otherwise, who maliciously, wantonly or negligently discharges or causes to be discharged any pistol, gun or any other kind of firearm, in or upon any public street or thoroughfare, or in any theater, hall, store, hotel, saloon or any other place of public resort, or throws any deadly missile in a public place or in any place where any person might be endangered thereby, although no injury results, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

          2. All civil, military and peace officers shall be vigilant in carrying the provisions of subsection 1 into full force and effect. Any peace officer who neglects his or her duty in the arrest of any such offender is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

  2. NRS 202.287 Discharging firearm within or from structure or vehicle; penalties.

          1. A person who is in, on or under a structure or vehicle and who maliciously or wantonly discharges or maliciously or wantonly causes to be discharged a firearm within or from the structure or vehicle:

          (a) If the structure or vehicle is not within an area designated by city or county ordinance as a populated area for the purpose of prohibiting the discharge of weapons, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

          (b) If the structure or vehicle is within an area designated by city or county ordinance as a populated area for the purpose of prohibiting the discharge of weapons, is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

          2. If a firearm is discharged within or out of any vehicle that is in motion or at rest and it cannot with reasonable certainty be ascertained in what county the crime was committed, the offender may be arrested and tried in any county through which the vehicle may have run on the trip during which the firearm was discharged.

          3. The provisions of this section do not apply to:

          (a) A person who lawfully shoots at a game mammal or game bird pursuant to subsection 2 of NRS 503.010.

          (b) A peace officer while engaged in the performance of his or her official duties.

          (c) A person who discharges a firearm in a lawful manner and in the course of a lawful business, event or activity.

          4. As used in this section:

          (a) “Structure” means any temporary or permanent structure, including, but not limited to, any tent, house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building.

          (b) “Vehicle” means any motor vehicle or trailer designed for use with a motor vehicle, whether or not it is self-propelled, operated on rails or propelled by electric power obtained from overhead wires.
  3. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C).
  4. NRS 179.245.
  5. NRS 179.255.

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