Intentional Negligent Discharge of Firearm: Not Guilty Verdict
A Griffin Law Office client was arrested at his home after his girlfriend called the police because she was worried he was going to hurt himself. In his state of anguish, he slapped one of his guns against his leg, causing the firearm to discharge and shatter his back window accidentally.
After his arrest, police swept the home and found many guns strewn throughout the house; the defendant and his girlfriend had just returned from a shooting range days prior, and in his depressive state, he was not able to pick up after himself or put the guns away. The guns became the crux of the prosecutor’s case, and he was charged with a statute titled “Negligent Discharge of a Firearm.”
The client was arrested for allegedly violating:
- Penal Code § 246.3 – Shooting Firearm or B.B. Device in Grossly Negligent Manner (Felony)
The client came to Griffin Law Office distraught about the felony charge and its impact on his career. As a superintendent of an esteemed construction company, he was an indispensable, integral part of his company, and all his years of hard work was on the line due to the impending litigation. His coworkers and supervisors wrote letters on behalf of the client, attesting to his character and requesting his timely release so he could return to work.
Faced with a felony and the possibility of losing his job, he was affected not only financially and legally, but also mentally.
Mental health concerns prompted his girlfriend’s call to the police, so it was a tragedy that the consequences of this event could worsen his state. His girlfriend also attested to his character and testified to her version of the facts against the prosecution’s theories.
During the preliminary hearing, Mr. Griffin was able to get his client’s charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. During cross-examinations of the Prosecution’s witnesses (mostly law enforcement personnel), Mr. Griffin was able to get them to admit to an important concession: that it was entirely possible that the client could have discharged the firearm by accident. The judge subsequently reduced the client’s charge and set a date for trial.
During the trial, Mr. Griffin focused on the following arguments: (1) that his client was not Mirandized twice before making statements, (2) that admitting evidence of the other guns would be unduly prejudicial, and (3) and that the jury should be instructed on “intentional negligent discharge of a firearm” because the current title was misleading.
While prosecution continued focusing on the guns and the theory that the client was setting up an ambush, defense expertly argued the jury would be exposed to unfair prejudice regarding the guns for several reasons. First, guns (like abortion) are a very divisive topic, and second, the general populace is quick to overperceive shooters and terrorists due to sensational news stories.
The title of the statute the client allegedly violated was inappropriately labeled, which had the potential of misleading the jury. The title of the statute, “Negligent discharge of a firearm,” Mr. Griffin argued, should include the element of intentionality that the statute so requires. In order to find the client guilty of violating § 246.3, the jury had to find that the client intended to fire a shot.
The jury found, consistent with the evidence offered and defense’s arguments that the client had accidentally discharged the firearm and was not guilty of violating § 246.3. Thanks to Mr. Griffin’s unrelenting resolve, the client’s charges were dismissed, and he was able to return to work and health.