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What Does it Mean to Recklessly Discharge a Firearm?

Taking your gun out for shooting practice or hunting can be an enjoyable pastime. As long as you fire the weapon in designated areas, you won’t face any legal troubles. However, if you use it in certain places and without regard for the safety of others, you could be charged with reckless discharge of a firearm or aggravated reckless discharge of a firearm charges.

What Does it Mean to Do Something Recklessly?

According to 720 ILCS 5/4-6, to do something recklessly means that you are consciously aware that your actions could create certain circumstances or results, which relate to the specific offense under question. The test for if you engaged in reckless behavior is whether or not a reasonable person in the same situation would have done the same. If your behavior deviates from that standard, you could be guilty of an offense.

Reckless Discharge of a Firearm

Under Illinois law, when you recklessly use your gun, you could be accused of violating statute 720 ILCS 5/24-1.5. Specifically, your actions are considered unlawful if you put the safety of others at risk.

For instance, say you are at a New Year’s Eve party with a group of friends. The clock strikes midnight, and you fire your gun in the air. Because you could have accidentally shot the gun at another party-goer or the bullet could fall back and hurt someone, you may be charged with reckless discharge of a firearm.

But other people are doing it. Doesn’t that mean it’s not reckless since the test is whether or not someone else would carry out the same actions in a similar situation? Unfortunately, the law considers what a reasonable person would do. Many people would know that firing a gun when others are around could endanger their lives. Therefore, shooting a gun at a party would be considered reckless.

The interesting thing about this law is that you could also be charged with an offense even if you weren’t the one who fired the weapon. How is that possible?

Under the second subsection of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.5, if the offense is committed by the passenger of a vehicle you were driving, and you knew they were going to shoot the gun, you would be held accountable for their actions.

Reckless discharge of a firearm is a Class 4 felony. A conviction carries with it up to 3 years in prison.

Aggravated Reckless Discharge of a Firearm

The elements listed in 720 ILCS 5/24-1.5 aren’t the only type of actions that could result in criminal charges. If you fire your gun in certain areas or at specific people, you could violate the law.

According to Statute 720 ILCS 5/24-1.2, aggravated discharge of a firearm occurs when you knowingly or intentionally shoot a gun:

  • Into a building that you know is occupied
  • At another person or at a car you know is occupied
  • At any of the following people engaged in their official duties, to prevent them from carrying out their official duties, or while they are in a vehicle:
    • Peace officer
    • Community police volunteer
    • Correctional institution employee
    • Firefighter
    • Emergency medical services personnel
    • Emergency management worker
  • At a teacher or school employee while they are on school property

Depending on the circumstances, this offense could be charged as a Class 1 or Class X felony. If convicted you could be looking at a prison sentence of up to 45 years.

Contact the Law Office of Steven Fine for Legal Representation

If you were charged with a weapons offense in Chicago, you could be looking at severe conviction penalties. Our lawyer is here to provide effective counsel and work toward a favorable outcome on your behalf.

Get started with a free consultation by calling us at (312) 436-0638 or contacting us online.