Hunting, farming, and ranching are part of everyday life in Utah. Many people shoot as a hobby, or even depend on guns for their livelihood. As a result, Utah has adopted some of the country’s most relaxed gun control laws. Even so, there are laws restricting when and where firearms may be used – and if you are accused of breaking those laws, you can be charged with serious crimes. Depending on where you allegedly shot from and whether anyone was injured, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or even felony offense, risking jail time, fines, a criminal record, suspension of your driver license, and permanent loss of your gun privileges.
If you were arrested for unlawful discharge of a firearm, felony discharge of a firearm, or related offenses involving weapons, you need a Salt Lake City defense lawyer now. Get the legal help you need from an aggressive trial attorney with more than 16 years of experience fighting misdemeanor and felony charges throughout the state of Utah. Darwin Overson, founder of Overson Law, PLLC, is a dedicated weapons lawyer with a reputation for providing effective, hard-hitting legal advocacy. For a free legal consultation about a gun-related arrest or criminal charge, contact Overson Law online, or call (801) 758-2287 today.
Is it Legal to Fire a Gun into the Air in Utah?
There are many situations in which it is lawful to fire a weapon in Utah, such as while hunting, at a shooting range, or potentially while on private property, depending on the situation. Utah also allows gun owners to carry concealed firearms in their own vehicles, subject to certain restrictions. There are minimal state restrictions on ammunition and magazines, and, provided the gun owner has obtained the appropriate permit, open carry of an unloaded weapon is generally lawful.
That being said, state law also creates several restrictions on locations where guns may be fired. Depending on where you were when the weapon was allegedly discharged, it may constitute a misdemeanor or even felony offense. State laws on the discharge of firearms are discussed below.
What is Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm?
Broadly speaking, the felony or unlawful discharge of a weapon involves firing a gun from, in, or toward a prohibited location. There are two criminal statutes dealing with the unlawful discharge of firearms in Utah:
- Utah Code 76-10-508 – This law applies in situations where a gun was allegedly fired near a highway, from a car, or in the direction of certain areas.
- Utah Code § 76-10-508.1 – This law defines and establishes penalties for a related but separate offense called “felony discharge of a firearm.”
Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm (Utah Code 76-10-508)
The law prohibits firing a gun from, at, within, or around the following types of locations:
- “[F]rom, upon, or across a highway”
- At a highway road sign
- At any type of utility poles or power lines
- From any kind of vehicle
- In or on any “building, designated camp or picnic sites, overlooks, golf courses, boat ramps, and developed beaches” in a state park
- Within 600 feet of “a house, dwelling, or any other building,” including barns and stockyards, unless the individual has obtained written authorization from the property owner (which is a valid defense to this type of charge, as established by Utah Code § 76-10-508(1)(b))
Felony Discharge of a Firearm (Utah Code 76-10-508.1)
The unlawful discharge of a firearm is a felony if:
- The individual shoots in the direction of a person or crowd while “knowing or having reason to believe that any individual may be endangered”
- The individual shoots in the direction of a house, apartment building, or other structure, intending to either damage the structure and/or “intimidate or harass” someone
- The individual shoots toward a car “with intent to intimidate or harass” another person
Criminal Penalties for Illegal Discharge of a Firearm
Depending on the situation, discharge of a firearm may be graded as a misdemeanor or felony offense. The penalties for a felony are greater than the maximum penalties for a misdemeanor, though both will result in a criminal record with potential for incarceration and costly fines.
Misdemeanor Penalties for Discharging a Firearm Unlawfully
Discharging a weapon unlawfully is generally a misdemeanor unless injuries result or the alleged shooting occurs in specific environments (such as toward a group of people). There are three types of misdemeanors in Utah: Class C, Class B, and Class A. Unlawful discharge of a weapon is a Class B misdemeanor under Utah Code § 76-10-508(2), subject to the following criminal penalties:
- Up to six months of jail time
- Up to $1,000 in fines (or, as an alternative, unpaid work service)
Additionally, the defendant’s driver license may be revoked or suspended if he or she is convicted.
Felony Penalties for Unlawfully Discharging a Weapon
There are three types of felonies: third degree, second degree, and first degree, the latter being the most serious.
Felony discharge of a weapon is generally a third degree felony in any of the three situations outlined above, such as shooting toward a person or people. However, if anyone is injured by the shooting, the offense becomes a second degree felony. If anyone is severely injured, the crime is a first degree felony. Criminal penalties may include the following:
- For a third degree felony, at least three and up to five years in prison, plus fines of up to $5,000
- For a second degree felony, at least three and up to 15 years in prison, plus fines of up to $10,000
- For a first degree felony, at least five years in prison with the potential for a life sentence
Salt Lake City Attorney for Unlawful Discharge of a Weapon
The unlawful discharge of a weapon is a serious offense with potential to upend your future forever. Protect your constitutional rights by working with an experienced defense attorney in Salt Lake City. Contact Overson Law online, or call our law offices today at (801) 758-2287 for a free legal consultation. We are available 24/7 to assist you.