Penal Code 247(b) PC - Shooting at an Unoccupied Vehicle or Building

California Penal Code 247(b) PC is the California statute that makes a crime for a person to shoot a firearm at any of the following:

  • an unoccupied motor vehicle,
  • an uninhabited building, and/or,
  • an uninhabited dwelling.

Examples of illegal acts under PC 247(b) include:

  • In testing a new scope, Mark fires his rifle at an old abandoned factory.
  • Mateo and his girlfriend shoot a pistol at a rusty and unoccupied vehicle.
  • After purchasing a large capacity magazine (a crime under Penal Code 32310), Edward tests it by shooting rounds at a rundown and deserted apartment complex.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 247(b) PC. These include showing that an accused:

Penalties

Shooting at an unoccupied vehicle or building is a wobbler offense. This means it can be charged as either a California misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year in the county jail.

If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for up to three years.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

man shooting rifle
California Penal Code 247(b) PC is the California statute that makes a crime for a person to shoot a firearm at any of the following: an unoccupied motor vehicle, an uninhabited building, and/or, an uninhabited dwelling.

1. What is the legal definition of shooting at an unoccupied vehicle or building?

Under California Penal Code 247(b) PC, it is a crime for a person to shoot a firearm at any of the following:

  • an unoccupied motor vehicle,
  • an uninhabited building, and/or,
  • an uninhabited dwelling.1

California law says that a “dwelling” is a home, such as:

  • a house,
  • an apartment,
  • a mobile home, or
  • a houseboat.

Please note that PC 247(b) does not apply to shooting at an unoccupied vehicle, or an uninhabited building or dwelling, with the permission of the vehicle's or building's owner.2

2. What are the legal defenses to accusations under Penal Code 247(b)?

A person accused under PC 247(b) can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to PC 247(b) accusations are:

  1. permission of owner;
  2. no probable cause; and/or,
  3. accident.

2.1. Permission of owner

Recall that PC 247(b) does not apply to a person shooting at an unoccupied vehicle, or an uninhabited building or dwelling, when the shooter has the permission of the owner. This means that it is defense in some cases if the defendant gained the permission of the vehicle's owner, or the building's owner, to shoot at the car or building.3 This permission, though, must be given before shots are fired.

2.2. No probable cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a suspect of a crime.

If a person was stopped or arrested for violating PC 247(b), and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

Probable cause” essentially means that there is a reasonable belief that someone committed a crime (based on all of the circumstances).

2.3. Accident

Accident is a legal defense in which a defendant asserts he did not do a criminal act on purpose: “It was an accident.” The defense is successful when a defendant shows that:

  • he had no criminal intent to do harm;
  • he was not acting negligently; and,
  • he was engaged in lawful conduct at the time of the accident.

A defendant, therefore, may challenge a PC 247(b) accusation if he can show that, while he may have shot a gun at a car or building, it was on accident.

man behind bars
Shooting at an unoccupied vehicle or building can result in prison time

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Shooting at an unoccupied vehicle or building is a wobbler offense. This means it can be charged as either a California misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year in the county jail.

If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for up to three years.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to shooting at an unoccupied vehicle or building. These are:

  1. drive by shooting – PC 26100;
  2. shooting at an occupied dwelling – PC 246; and,
  3. negligent discharge – PC 246.3.

4.1. Drive by shooting – PC 26100

Drive-by-shootings are against the law in California, per Penal Code 26100.

A drive-by-shooting is technically known as "discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle."

Penal Code 26100 makes it illegal for a person to:

  • allow a passenger to bring a gun into his car;
  • allow a passenger to fire a gun from his car;
  • discharge a gun from within a car; and/or,
  • shoot at someone from a car.4

Knowingly allowing a passenger to bring a gun into a car is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.5

Firing a gun from a car, or allowing someone else to do so, is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.6

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • up to one year in jail, and/or
  • a maximum $1,000 fine.7

If charged as a felony, PC 26100 is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for:

  • 16 months,
  • 2 years, or
  • 3 years.

And, if a defendant is found guilty of shooting at another person from a car, it is an automatic ("straight") felony. The crime is punishable by:

  • three, five, or seven years in the state prison, and/or
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.

4.2. Shooting at an occupied dwelling – PC 246

California Penal Code makes it a crime for a person to shoot a gun at an inhabited dwelling or an occupied car.

A violation of Penal Code 246 is charged as a felony.8 The crime is punishable by:

  • six months to one year in county jail; or
  • three, five or seven years in California state prison.9

An accused may also be fined up to $10,000.10

4.3. Negligent discharge – PC 246.3

Negligent discharge of a firearm is illegal in California, per Penal Code 246.3.

A defendant is guilty under Penal Code 246.3 if a prosecutor successfully proves the following:

  1. the defendant willfully discharged a firearm,
  2. in a grossly negligent manner, and
  3. the act could have resulted in someone's injury or death.11

Negligently firing a gun is a wobbler offense.

If the crime is charged as a misdemeanor, negligent discharge carries a maximum county jail sentence of one year.

If charged as a felony, the crime can lead to 16 months, two years or three years in county jail.12

Were you accused of shooting at an unoccupied vehicle or building in California? Call us for help…

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Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under California Penal Code 247(b), we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAWFIRM.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 247(b) PC. This code sections states: “Any person who discharges a firearm at an unoccupied motor vehicle or an uninhabited building or dwelling house is guilty of a public offense punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year or in the state prison. This subdivision does not apply to shooting at an abandoned vehicle, unoccupied vehicle, uninhabited building, or dwelling house with the permission of the owner.”

  2. See same.

  3. See People v. Shadden (2007), 150 Cal. App. 4th 137.

  4. California Penal Code 26100 PC.

  5. See same.

  6. See same.

  7. See same.

  8. California Penal Code 246 PC.

  9. See same.

  10. See same.

  11. California Penal Code 246.3 PC.

  12. See same.

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