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What Happens if I Shoot Someone with a BB Gun in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

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Since intentionally shooting a BB gun at another (and hitting him) definitely involves the willful and unlawful use of force, it could be a battery if a person shot a BB gun at another.

It is a crime in California if a person intentionally shoots a BB gun at another person, per California's assault and battery laws. This holds true even if a person shoots at someone else and misses.

Depending on the specific facts involved in the shooting, the shooter could be charged with:

  • battery, per California Penal Code 242 PC,
  • assault, per California Penal Code 240 PC, or
  • assault with a deadly weapon, per California Penal Code 245(a)(1)

The penalties for these offenses can include both extensive jail time and substantial fines.

What is battery under Penal Code 242?

Under PC 242, the California crime of battery consists of any willful and unlawful use of force or violence on someone else.

Since intentionally shooting a BB gun at another (and hitting him) definitely involves the willful and unlawful use of force, it could be a battery if a person shot a BB gun at another.

A violation of Penal Code 242 PC is a misdemeanor under California law. The offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $2,000.

What is assault under Penal Code 240 PC?

PC 240 defines an assault as an attempt to use force or violence on someone else. While a battery involves the actual use of force or violence, assault specifically focuses on the attempt to use such force or violence.

This means a person could be charged with assault if he shot a BB gun at a person and for whatever reason missed. Even though the intended victim was not hurt, the attempt to inflict violence still occurred.

Penal Code 240 is a misdemeanor under California law. The offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

What is assault with a deadly weapon under Penal Code 245(a)(1)?

PC 245(a)(1) says that the crime of assault with a deadly weapon ("ADW”) consists of an assault that is committed either with:

  • a so-called “deadly weapon,” or
  • by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.

A “deadly weapon” is defined as any object, instrument, or weapon which is used in a manner that makes it capable of producing death or great bodily injury.

This includes the obvious deadly weapons such as guns and knives. But, it also includes items (like BB guns) that can be used in a way that could kill someone or cause them substantial harm.

Great bodily injury” is defined as any serious impairment of someone's physical condition. Some examples include:

  • concussions,
  • bone fractures, and
  • wounds requiring extensive suturing.

Therefore, if a defendant assaulted another person by means of a BB gun, he could be charged with ADW if the facts also show that:

  • the BB gun was used as a “deadly weapon;” or,
  • in a way likely to cause “great bodily injury.”

A violation of PC 245(a)(1) is a wobbler offense, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum jail sentence is one year in county jail. If charged as a felony, ADW can lead to two, three, or four years in state prison.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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