Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Discharging a Firearm Defense

A Mattapan man faces charges after law enforcement found him carrying a firearm, live ammunition, and drugs in Dorchester. 

The charges came after law enforcement officers heard multiple gunshots and saw a vehicle leaving a parking lot at a high speed. Officers approached the vehicle and ordered the driver out, but he refused. Consequently, law enforcement forcibly removed the driver from the vehicle and discovered a firearm. The officers also seized 20 rounds of live ammunition located in a gun box in the vehicle’s trunk as well as a medium-sized bag in the vehicle’s center console containing a drug-like substance.

The man was charged with carrying a loaded firearm without a license, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, and possession of class A drugs. 

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 section 12E states that it is a criminal offense for a person to discharge a firearm within 500 feet of any building or dwelling without the consent of the occupant or owner. Because a conviction of this offense can result in a person facing fines of up to $100 and imprisonment for a maximum of three months, people must understand how they can defend against these charges.

Defenses That do Not Work

There are some common misconceptions about what defenses work in response to the charge of discharging a firearm. Some strategies that will not be sufficient in response to these charges include:

  • You were not firing live ammunition. A person can be charged with the offense whether they discharged blank rounds or live ammunition.

  • You fired at night or early in the morning. The purpose of the law is to protect the occupants of buildings. As a result, these laws apply during any time of the day or night.

  • You did not know you were discharging the firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. You can still be convicted of this offense even if you did not know that you were discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling.

Successful Defenses to This Charge

Several defenses work in response to these charges, which include:

  • Lack of evidence. The prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that your firearm was discharged within 500 feet of a building or dwelling. It can be challenging for the prosecution to collect adequate evidence to support a charge.

  • Why You Discharged the Weapon. There are several recognized exemptions to discharging a firearm. Some of these exemptions include people who discharged a firearm in defense of life or property and law enforcement officers who discharged their firearm while in the line of duty.

  • Where You Discharged the Weapon. Despite the 500 feet law, there are some locations where a person can discharge a weapon. For example, a person can discharge a firearm in a license shooting gallery. A person can also discharge blank cartridges for athletic, ceremonial, theatrical, firing square, or firework displays.

Speak With a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a criminal offense, you should not hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Contact attorney Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.