Penal Code 246 PC - Shooting at Inhabited Dwelling or Occupied Vehicle
Under California Penal Code 246 PC, it is a felony to willfully discharge a firearm at any inhabited dwelling or occupied vehicle. A home is “inhabited” if used for living purposes, whether presently occupied or not.
Notably, the person does not have to be inside inhabited dwellings, just that it's where someone lives. However, shooting at "occupied" buildings and vehicles is only a crime if somebody is inside the car or building.
Somebody acts “maliciously” when they deliberately commit a wrongful act or with the unlawful intent to disturb, annoy, or injure another person.
A PC 246 conviction is punishable by up to seven years in prison and might qualify for sentence enhancements, making the sentence longer.
Simply put, this statute makes it a crime "maliciously and willfully discharge a firearm" at an inhabited dwelling house, occupied vehicle, occupied building, either residential or commercial, or an inhabited recreational vehicle.
PC 246 says: “Any person who shall maliciously and willfully discharge a firearm at an inhabited dwelling house, occupied building, occupied motor vehicle, occupied aircraft, inhabited house car, as defined in Section 362 of the Vehicle Code, or inhabited camper, as defined in Section 243 of the Vehicle Code, is guilty of a felony….”
A “firearm” is any device designed to be used as a weapon where a projectile is discharged or expelled through a barrel by the force of an explosion. Notably, “discharging at” does not just mean directly at the target but also shooting nearby, showing a probability it could strike the target. "Willfully" means you intended to do the act with malice aforethought. Let's review this state law in more detail below.
What Are the Related Crimes?
Several California crimes are often charged along with, or instead of, Penal Code 246 PC shooting at an inhabited dwelling or occupied vehicle, such as the following:
- Penal Code 29800 PC – felon with a firearm;
- Penal Code 26100 PC – drive-by shooting;
- Penal Code 246.3 PC – negligent discharge of a firearm;
- Penal Code 30600 PC – possession of assault weapon;
- Penal Code 25850 PC – carrying a loaded firearm;
- Penal Code 245(a)(2) PC – assault with a firearm;
- Penal Code 664/187 PC – attempted murder.
What Are the Penalties for PC 246?
A PC 246 shooting at an inhabited dwelling or occupied vehicle is always charged as a felony. If you are convicted, you face up to seven years in a California state prison and a $10,000 fine.
Depending on the circumstances, some sentencing enhancements could increase the sentence much longer. The most common sentencing enhancements include the following:
- Penal Code 186.22 PC gang sentencing enhancement. If you fired at an inhabited building or occupied building related to gang activity, you could face additional prison time of two to four years;
- Penal Code 12022.53 PC 10-20-life enhancement. If someone sustains a serious bodily injury or death, you face 25 years to life in prison.
What Are the Defenses for PC 246?
There are several strategies that California criminal defense lawyers can use to fight PC 246 shooting at an inhabited dwelling or occupied vehicle charges, which are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you didn't act willfully or maliciously. You are not guilty of this crime if you can show that your actions were accidental or unintentional.
Perhaps we can argue that you were mistaken about whether the building or vehicle was occupied. Maybe you believed you were firing at an unoccupied vehicle or business.
Notably, this defense does not apply to inhabited dwellings because if somebody lives there, you can be found guilty, even if they were not home then.
Perhaps we can argue that you were defending yourself or someone else. Maybe you were in reasonable fear for your or someone else's life, and we can claim self-defense.
Perhaps we can argue that you are the victim of false allegations or mistaken identity. Maybe the accuser has other motives, such as jealousy or anger. If the shooting occurred at night, any witnesses might have mistakenly identified you.
If you have been charged with violating Penal Code 246, a violent felony case, you must get experienced legal representation to have the best chance at a favorable outcome.
Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or persuade them not to file formal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.”
You can contact our law firm for a free case evaluation by phone or using the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles, California.