What is willful discharge of a firearm in public?
“If any person willfully discharges or causes to be discharged any firearm in any street in a city or town, or in any place of public business or place of public gathering, and such conduct results in bodily injury to another person, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. If such conduct does not result in bodily injury to another person, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
What does this mean for you?
In Virginia, a Class 6 Felony carries a term of imprisonment of one to five years. A Class 1 Misdemeanor carries a term of imprisonment of up to one year and up to a $2,500 fine.
What does the Commonwealth have to prove?
They have to prove that you did this willfully or intentionally, that a firearm was actually discharged, and that it was in a public place. Meaning they have to prove that you intentionally had a firearm out in public, that the firearm was actually used or fired, and that it was all done in a public place. A public place includes any street within a city or town, any area open to public gatherings, or any place of public business. Va. Code 18.2-280(A)
Should you get an attorney?
Yes. If this charge resulted in bodily injury, you could be charged with other serious charges such as malicious wounding, attempted murder, or assault and battery.
There are numerous ways that this charge can be mitigated especially if you did not discharge the weapon intentionally or it was done as an act of self-defense. You want an attorney to evaluate all the possible evidence to see if the Commonwealth can prove these charges against you.