Ohioans have a constitutional right to own a gun. However, gun owners must exercise caution to avoid criminal charges. Some basic gun laws limit where you can fire or discharge a gun. You could face serious penalties if you’re accused or convicted of improperly discharging a firearm in Columbus.
If you’re facing weapons charges in Ohio, you need a dependable and effective defense attorney from Luftman, Heck & Associates. Our Columbus defense lawyers can answer your questions and start fighting for your rights.
Call (614) 500-3836 to begin.
Understanding Improper Discharge in Ohio
Under Ohio law, citizens’ ability to own a firearm is protected. They are allowed to own them for personal protection, hunting, or other lawful activities. However, some laws define when it’s illegal to discharge a firearm.
Ohio Revised Code 2923.161 says it is improper to discharge a firearm at or into a building where people live, a school zone, or to cause harm or panic by shooting a gun at a school function. A gun owner is not allowed to shoot to cause physical harm or to create fear of physical harm.
ORC 2923.162 says a person cannot fire a gun on or within 100 yards of a cemetery, on park grounds, on or near property belonging to a school, church, or non-profit organization, or fire a gun over a public road.
There are exceptions to these laws, but for most residents who aren’t employed by the government or serving in law enforcement, there are strict penalties for violating these ordinances. An Ohio criminal defense lawyer can help you evaluate your charges and strategize a defense.
When Improper Discharge Allegations Apply
Understanding how improper discharge is classified is critical if you’ve been charged with an offense. You do not have to have an intent to harm someone to get charged with improperly discharging a firearm: firing the weapon in a prohibited place or towards a resident is enough to be charged.
You may even be charged if the projectile lands on prohibited property.
Gun owners are permitted to fire on their own land. However, say one of your rounds overshoots your backdrop and lands in a cemetery. You could be charged with a felony offense for firing towards a prohibited zone.
You could still face criminal consequences even if you think you should not be charged with an offense because the discharge was an accident. The crime isn’t what you intended to have happen, but that the gun was fired at all.
Penalties for Improperly Discharging a Firearm in Ohio
Anyone charged with improperly discharging a firearm could be facing felonies, which could mean hefty fines, incarceration, or even losing the right to own a gun.
If you’re accused of improperly discharging a gun into an occupied dwelling or school, you could be charged with a second-degree felony. You could face a maximum fine of $15,000 and a prison sentence between two and eight years.
You could face a misdemeanor charge for improperly firing a gun near a cemetery, property owned by a school, church, or non-profit, or over a road. If you fire over a road, you could face a first-degree misdemeanor. Otherwise, you’d face a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
A first-degree misdemeanor conviction could get you a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail. A fourth-degree misdemeanor would have a lesser sentence, but it would still appear on your record: a maximum of 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250.
Some instances could elevate a misdemeanor-level improper discharge allegation to a felony, like if the shot hurt someone. A defense attorney can explain the nuances in charges and sentencing.
Other Consequences for An Accidental Discharge
If you’re convicted of improperly discharging a firearm, you could be ordered to pay restitution to any victims, pay court costs, or serve probation. If drugs or alcohol influenced your actions that led to the discharge, you may be ordered to complete rehabilitation.
You may have to surrender your firearms if the judge deems it necessary.
Defenses against Firearm Charges in Ohio
A weapons-related criminal charge may be overwhelming, but you still have a right to defend yourself and your freedom. After all, the legal system believes you are innocent until proven guilty. Working with an experienced Ohio criminal defense lawyer can help your chances at staying innocent in the eyes of the law.
Possible defenses could include:
- The building was not an “occupied structure”: your charges may hinge on the property being a dwelling. You may be able to argue that the building doesn’t fit the “occupied structure” definition, so your charge is erroneous.
- You had permission to fire your weapon: you may be accused of a crime if you’re firing a weapon in an area where the law believes you shouldn’t. However, if you’ve received permission from the property owner, then the law doesn’t apply.
- You discharged the gun in self-defense: this can be a tricky angle, but if you fired the gun to defend yourself or another person who you believed faced real danger, it could be a possible defense. Finding proof of an imminent threat warranting shooting a gun can be a challenge in many circumstances.
- You did discharge the weapon, but you were mistaken: sometimes, a snap decision based on a quick read of a situation can lead to trouble. You may have fired the gun in a situation in which a threat appeared to be present but wasn’t. Your attorney may be able to convince a jury that you acted reasonably because the facts could easily be misconstrued.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, several defenses could be viable.
FAQs about Improper Discharge of a Firearm
What is a School Safety Zone in Ohio?
A school safety zone includes any school, school premises, school activity, or school bus. Discharging a firearm in or near these areas is typically subject to stricter penalties.
Does Having a Concealed Carry Permit Protect Me from Improper Discharge Charges?
No. Your concealed carry permit allows you to have a firearm. It does not grant immunity from improper discharge regulations.
Are There Exceptions to These Laws?
There can be exceptions for accidental discharge laws. Some people are privileged to discharge their weapon if it is in the course of their duties. Police officers, agents, or other members of law enforcement could be excluded from criminal consideration if they act while on duty.
For instance, while a bystander could be charged with improperly discharging a firearm in a school as an act of protecting students, a police officer doing the same could be exempt.
How Can a Firearms Defense Lawyer Help Me?
Finding an attorney to represent you in your Columbus improper discharge case is critical to maintaining your freedom and rights. Your lawyer can start protecting your rights before your case goes to court. They can ensure you have a fair investigation, gather evidence related to your arrest, and search for the best defense or plea options.
Your attorney can recognize when you have a chance to negotiate your way to a reduced sentence or dropped charges. You stand to lose without a lawyer who understands your rights and cares about your freedoms.
Are You in Trouble for Improperly Handling a Firearm? Call LHA
Charges related to firearms can be daunting. The justice system takes people’s rights to own firearms seriously but also wants the public protected. You deserve fair treatment. You should call the criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates for your Columbus-based needs.
When you’re accused of improperly firing a gun, you deserve an attorney who will ensure you’re given the best chance at keeping your rights. We can answer your questions. We’re ready to hear your story. Call (614) 500-3836 or contact us online.