Every state tries to do a balancing act between the right to bear arms and the need to control how firearms are handled for the sake of the general population’s safety.
It’s important to understand that what you may consider a harmless (or even celebratory) discharge of your gun could be considered a serious crime, especially if your actions are considered “reckless.”
It’s much more serious than an unlawful discharge
If you discharge your gun and clearly nobody was ever in danger, that may result in little more than an unlawful discharge of a firearm conviction and a fine. However, a reckless discharge of a firearm is a felony of the third degree in this state. If you’re convicted, you can face a fine of between $2,500 and $15,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.
To be charged with this offense, you have to “knowingly, intentionally or recklessly” discharge your weapon into any “occupied structure.” However, it’s important to understand that an “occupied structure” includes anything that can be used to accommodate people, even a vehicle, a tent, or an oversized box being used by the homeless.
That means you can get into trouble for things like shooting a gun into the air to celebrate a birthday or wedding and having the projectile come down into someone’s house or car nearby or using what you think is an abandoned vehicle for target practice.
Many people who are facing these charges have simply had their weapons accidentally fire, maybe because they dropped the gun or simply mishandled it when they were arming themselves or trying to clear the chamber. If this happens to you, don’t let a prosecutor’s zeal for a conviction go unchallenged. There are defense options available.