Whether in the Phoenix area, or anywhere in Arizona, per A.R.S. §13-3107 “Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm,” (also called a violation of “Shannon’s Law”) occurs when a person, with criminal negligence, discharges a firearm within or into the limits of any municipality, and they are less than one (1) mile from any occupied structure.
“Criminal negligence” means the following: with respect to the result, or to a circumstance, a person fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk the result will occur, or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. In this situation, the prosecution would have to prove that even if the defendant did not intend to shoot the gun, that it was a real possibility based on the defendant’s actions that the gun would shoot off, and a reasonable person would have recognized that risk.
The reason this is called “Shannon’s Law” has to do with the tragic death of a young girl who was struck by a stray bullet which fell from the sky after some individuals had been firing a gun into the air while celebrating. This most often occurs around New Year’s Eve in certain areas of Arizona where it has become a tradition to fire shots at midnight.
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Possible Punishment to Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm
A violation of “Shannon’s Law” can result in being charged with a class six (6) felony with an “Allegation of Dangerousness.” A first offense class six (6) Dangerous felony conviction includes a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one and one half (1.5) years, a presumptive prison term of two and one quarter (2.25) years, and a maximum of three (3) years of incarceration. In addition, if the person has one (1) allegeable historical dangerous prior conviction, then the mandatory “prison only” sentence is three (3) years minimum, three and three quarters (3.75) years presumptive, and four and one half (4.5) maximum years of incarceration. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical dangerous prior convictions, then the mandatory “prison only” minimum is four and one half (4.5) years, the presumptive is five and one quarter (5.25) years, and the maximum is six (6) years of incarceration.
Possible Defenses of Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm
The strongest defense to a charge of Unlawful Discharge of a Weapon is misidentification of the defendant. Many times the police will arrive at the scene of a party where multiple party-goers are present. Usually, any witnesses who were at the shooting scene were so panicked both at the shots fired into the air and also at the resulting arrival of the police (sirens and lights blaring) that they would not be able to positively make an identification of the alleged shooters. Additionally, the police will conduct what is known as a “show-up” identification instead of a proper “line-up” identification. A “show-up” is when the police drive an individual suspect (usually in handcuffs), back to the scene of the crime and then have witnesses at the scene indicate whether that was the person who fired the gun or not. The problem is that this form of identification procedure is unduly suggestive and extremely unreliable. From the witnesses perspective, they are already pre-disposed to think this is the person who they saw commit the crime because why else would somebody be there, in handcuffs, with police officers standing next to them, unless the police had reason to believe that this was the person who committed the crime?
It is also imperative to challenge any claim of “gunshot residue” being left behind on the defendant “shooter’s” hands. Many times a gun will be fired by one individual, but then handed to another individual. The three (3) elements of gunshot residue (barium, antimony, and lead) will also be left behind on the second person’s hands. It then becomes virtually impossible to distinguish who actually fired the weapon; both sets of fingerprints will be on the gun and both suspects will have residue on their bodies. It is important to utilize the proper forensic experts to attack the State’s evidence.
Additionally, because our law firm fights conviction from all angles, we would assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those we frequently assert is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Arizona, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements. In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; ballistics; gunshot residue testing; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc.. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case. Before speaking with other lawyers, check out our Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm victories page.
It is important to hire an AV® rated law firm (the highest possible rating by Martindale Hubbell®). Also David Michael Cantor is a Criminal Law Attorney in Phoenix and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist, per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. In addition, the Firm and all of it’s lawyers are listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers®. At DM Cantor, the majority of our Attorneys are ex-Prosecutors, and all of our Criminal Law Attorneys in Phoenix know the system well. For a Free Initial Consultation, call us at 602-307-0808.
Contact DM Cantor and speak to a Criminal Law Attorney in Phoenix. We will assist you with your Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm case.