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Discharge of a Firearm into an Occupied Structure

Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2707.1, Pennsylvania law prohibits the Discharge of a Firearm into an Occupied Structure. In essence, the crime prohibits knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly discharging a firearm from any location into an occupied structure.

The statutory scheme provides that a person acts recklessly when he or she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his or her conduct will bring about such a result. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and intent of the defendant's conduct and the circumstances known to him or her, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the defendant's situation.

Attorney for Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm in West Chester, PA

If you were charged with the improper discharge of a firearm in an occupied structure under 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2702.1 in either Chester County or Delaware County, Pennsylvania, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm. Find out what you need to do right now to protect yourself after a criminal allegation for a firearm or weapon charge.

Attorney Michael Skinner provides a free consultation to discuss your case and important defenses that might apply. With offices conveniently located in West Chester in Chester County, PA, Michael Skinner is ready to begin your defense today. Call (610) 436-1410 to discuss your case. 

Elements of Firing a Gun into a Structure that is Occupied

Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2707.1, the elements of the crime include:

A person acts knowingly when he or she is aware that it is practically certain that his or her conduct will cause such a result. The jury instructions for alleged violations of Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2707.1 can be found in the Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Criminal Jury Instructions, which were last revised in June 2010.

Definitions for Improper Discharge of a Firearm

Under Pennsylvania’s law against firing a gun into an occupied structure, the following definitions are used throughout the statutory scheme: The term “firearm” is defined under Pennsylvania law as “any weapon that is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosion, or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.”

The term “occupied structure” is defined as “any structure, vehicle, or place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons or for carrying on business therein, whether or not a person is actually present.”

Defenses to Discharge of a Firearm into an Occupied Structure

Pennsylvania law provides special defenses for law enforcement officers charged with the Discharge of a Firearm into an Occupied Structure when the defendant is a hunter or law enforcement officer.

18 Pa.C.S. § 2707.1 includes language that it is a complete defense to this charge that the defendant, at the time the defendant discharged the firearm, was a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of official law enforcement duties.

After the defense is raised, the prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the burden to disprove this defense beyond a reasonable doubt. That is, in addition to the elements described above, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of official law enforcement duties.

It is also a complete defense to this charge if:

The Commonwealth has the burden to disprove this defense beyond a reasonable doubt. That is, in addition to the elements described above, the prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, at the time the defendant discharged the firearm, the defendant was not engaged in hunting activity from a location where hunting activity was lawful, and that the defendant did not act intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly in causing the projectile to pass into the occupied structure. (See Commonwealth v. McCoy, 962 A.2d 1160 (Pa. 2009).)


Additional Resources

Pennsylvania Firearm Laws — Visit the website for Firearms Owners Against Crime to learn more about Pennsylvania Laws Relating to Firearms. You can also download a booklet on  Pennsylvania laws relating to the possession, used, discharge, sale, or transfer of a firearm. The materials were prepared by the Legislative Reference Bureau, editing and publishing office for distribution by the members of the General Assembly in Harrisburg, PA. The information was last revised on February 15, 2013. Also find the latest proposed laws and upcoming events.  

Pennsylvania Code, Consolidated Statutes, Section 2707.1 — Discharge of a Firearm — Visit the website of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to find more information on the statutory scheme for discharging a firearm into an occupied structure under Section 2702.1, which is charged as a third-degree felony even if no one is injured.


Finding an Attorney for Improper Discharge of a Firearm

If you were charged with improperly firing a gun into an occupied structure, a third-degree felony, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for Chester County and Delaware County, PA. With offices in West Chester in Chester County, PA, criminal defense attorney Michael Skinner is focused on fighting crimes involving firearms and weapons. He is ready to begin your case today. Call (610) 436-1410 for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case, how to avoid the potential penalties, and to learn about important defenses to fight the charges.

This article was last updated on Friday, February 6, 2016.

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