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Can You Face Criminal Charges for Firing a Gun in Public?

Texas residents enjoy strong gun rights, and many people have multiple firearms which they carry openly as is allowed by law. Nonetheless, Texas laws tightly regulate what you can do with your firearm, and many people violate one or more laws without intent. Firing a gun in public can often result in criminal charges, even if you don’t accidentally hit anyone. Under Texas Penal Code Section 22.05, Deadly Conduct, you can face misdemeanor or felony charges for engaging in reckless conduct. Gun offenses often draw increased scrutiny from law enforcement, so quickly contact an experienced Galveston criminal defense attorney at Tad Nelson & Associates. We can swiftly begin defending you from these charges.

Can You Face Prosecution?

The statute mentioned above criminalizes engaging in reckless conduct which puts a person in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. Subsection (b) specifically applies to knowing discharge of a gun in the direction of a person or an occupied building or vehicle.

There are certain elements to this offense, including that your conduct be reckless and that you place a person in “imminent” danger of a serious injury. So the DA needs to prove all of these elements to get a conviction.

However, the law makes things easy for the DA. It says that recklessness is presumed if you knowingly pointed the firearm in the direction of another person. It doesn’t matter if you believe the firearm was loaded.

People can face criminal prosecution for what might seem like innocent conduct:

  • Having a firing range in your backyard if there is a house in the line of sight.
  • Playing around and accidentally firing a gun, if you knowingly pointed it at someone.
  • Firing at someone you mistakenly believe is a threat to you.

The law does not require that you injure someone. (If you did, you are likely facing other, more serious charges.) It is enough under this section if you create an imminent danger of serious injury. Given the fact that bullets can cause serious injuries, this is probably not hard for the prosecutor to prove.


Generally, any dangerous conduct is a Class A misdemeanor. Maximum penalties are one year in county jail and a $4,000 fine.

But if you point a gun at someone or in the direction of a building or vehicle, you can face third degree felony charges. That would mean 2-10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. Again, these penalties apply even if no one was injured. You shot, someone was nearby, and now you are facing up to a decade in prison.

You might also lose the ability to possess a gun legally as a convicted felon. Some people forget that fact, which means they leave the house openly carrying a firearm despite the felony. If you break that law, then you will have committed another crime.

Prosecutors might bundle this charge along with others, such as aggravated assault or terroristic threats. The penalties above are only the maximums for a Deadly Conduct conviction alone. Further, any criminal history could also increase the penalties you face. Someone with other felony convictions in their background could face up to 20 years or more in prison. Please work closely with a lawyer to fully understand all the negative consequences that flow from any criminal conviction.

How We Fight These Charges

The defenses we raise on behalf of our clients must be supported by the facts of the case and the law. Some defenses include:

  • Disputing that anyone was in the vicinity of where you pointed the gun.
  • Arguing a vehicle or house was obviously abandoned and empty when you pointed a gun at it.
  • Claiming someone else discharged the gun (mistaken identity).
  • Challenging the constitutional basis of your arrest or the collection of evidence.
  • Alleging a failure to turn over evidence once requested.

These cases often rely on witnesses who allegedly saw you discharging the gun. We might challenge the believability of their testimony. For example, it might have been dark, so they didn’t see correctly whether you pointed the gun at anyone, or they might have been tired or intoxicated. Anything which undermines their ability to perceive correctly what happened is useful.

Get the Legal Defense You Need

Tad Nelson is a Board Certified criminal defense attorney assisting those accused of felonies and misdemeanors in Galveston and League City. Our office is open, and we can meet for a consultation to review your charges and discuss preliminary ways of fighting back to protect your liberty. Call us today.