You may be legally able to own and use a weapon in this country, but if you choose to use it in a reckless, dangerous, or threatening way, then you could face charges – as one Texas man recently found out.
In Marshall, Texas, a man was arrested for shooting at people at a gas station. Thankfully, no one was injured, but he faces several charges for this behavior – including deadly conduct.
Never heard of deadly conduct? You may want to get familiar with it, especially if you carry weapons. Here’s what you need to know and when deadly conduct can be charged.
What Texas Says About Deadly Conduct
Using a weapon in a reckless, threatening, or dangerous manner is a crime called deadly conduct. It can be charged as a misdemeanor offense or a felony, but it depends on the circumstances surrounding the crime.
There are certain elements a crime must involve to be considered deadly conduct, however. Besides an offender engaging in reckless, dangerous behavior or otherwise knowingly discharging a weapon in the direction of people there are four distinct categories of circumstance that must exist for it to be a deadly conduct crime. They are:
- Danger of harm
- State of mind
- Serious bodily injury
- Discharging or brandishing a weapon
Learn more about each individual element below.
Danger of Harm
The danger of harm is when you know (or should know) that your conduct could or can put someone at risk of serious bodily injury. In other words, if any person could reasonably see that their actions can cause bodily harm, then that constitutes a danger of harm.
State of Mind
In order to be convicted of deadly conduct, a person’s state of mind must be examined. There are two specific states of mind that build a case for deadly conduct:
- Recklessness – Acting recklessly or being reckless when you’re aware that the danger could lead to an unjustifiable and substantial risk of serious bodily injury.
- Intent – It must also be established that you intended to use a firearm without thinking about the potential safety issues it could bring about or without concern for harm to others that these actions could cause.
Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury is any injury that can present a substantial risk of death or cause permanent disfigurement, impairment, or function.
Discharging a Weapon
Deadly conduct can be committed with a firearm if it’s brandished or fired in the direction of others or the home, building, or vehicle that they occupy. That means you can be charged with deadly conduct for aiming your gun at a building that has people in it.
Penalties for Deadly Conduct in Texas
If you engage in reckless conduct that possess the imminent threat of bodily injury, then it’s normally charged as a Class A misdemeanor for deadly conduct.
However, knowingly discharging a weapon that is aimed at another person, building, or vehicle, then it can be charged as a third-degree felony. In either scenario, you can receive any or all of the punishments outlined next.
Class A misdemeanors for deadly conduct normally carry a penalty of up to 12 months in jail. Third-degree deadly conduct can lead to as many as 10 years in prison.
Class A misdemeanors carry with them the penalty of fines up to $4,000. Third-degree felonies can lead to an order to pay up to $10,000 in fines.
You may also receive probation in lieu of jail time for deadly conduct or a combination of jail time and probation.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.