A drive-by shooting may have caused a Los Angeles man to permanently lose vision in one of his eyes. The drive-by was untraditional and likely a juvenile prank carried out by three young men. The three men reportedly drove around Torrance and fired paintballs at pedestrians from the car. Police responded to reports of the incident and tracked down the drive-by vehicle. The three men, who were found in the possession of a paintball gun and several paintball pellets, were arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
Almost Anything Can Be a Deadly Weapon
When we think of deadly weapons we tend to imagine the traditional handgun or a knife. However, a deadly weapon is broadly defined to include any object, instrument, or weapon that has the capability and likelihood to cause death or injury. Over the years, people have gotten creative in their choice of weapon in attacks. Corkscrews, X-Box gaming consoles, musical instruments, prosthetic limbs, and high heels are a few examples of seemingly innocuous items that have been used as weapons. Courts have held that items that are not deadly per se can be classified as “deadly” if they are used in a manner that is likely to cause serious harm. When deciding if an item should be classified as a deadly weapon for the purposes of the law, courts will consider:
- The manner in which the item is used,
- The nature of the object, and
- Any other relevant facts and circumstances.
Creating such a broad definition allows the law to keep up with changes in technology. Years ago, when the law was being written and the term for “deadly weapon” was being defined, lawmakers probably didn’t envision people running around and hurting others with paintball guns, screwdrivers, and gaming consoles. However, the vague definition and broad scope applied by the courts allow the law to apply to almost anything. As long as an item is used in a way that can (and is likely to) produce harm, that item will probably be considered a deadly weapon.
Assault With a Deadly Weapon
Assault with a deadly weapon, as defined in Penal Code Section 245 PC, occurs when:
- A person willfully performs an act,
- With a deadly weapon,
- That by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to a person.
In simpler terms, assault with a deadly weapon occurs when you engage in behavior with a deadly weapon that is likely to hurt another person. It is not necessary to actually harm another person. The fact that your behavior was likely to cause harm is sufficient.
The three young men discussed above have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon because:
- They drove a vehicle and intentionally fired paintball pellets at unsuspecting pedestrians,
- They used a paintball gun to commit the act, and
- Firing a paintball gun at unprotected and unsuspecting people is likely to cause harm.
Consequences of a Conviction
In California, assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The charges will depend on the following factors:
- The type of deadly weapon that was used in the attack,
- Whether any victims were harmed in the attack,
- The seriousness of the injuries sustained by the victims,
- Whether the victims were members of a protected class (e.g., police, law enforcement, disabled, elderly), and
- If you have a criminal record.
A misdemeanor conviction for assault with a deadly weapon carries a maximum criminal penalty of one year in a Los Angeles County jail and $1,000 in fines. A felony conviction for assault with a deadly weapon is punishable by two, three, or four years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
The three young men will likely face felony charges since at least one of their victims has suffered an incredibly serious injury.
Driving around town with a paintball gun in hand was probably the result of youthful indiscretion. The three young men may have thought that their actions were harmless and that they were just out having a good time. This good time could ruin their futures. If they are convicted they will have to adjust to life with a criminal record. Having a criminal record will expose them to harsh social and civil penalties in life. These penalties, which are known as collateral consequences, can include:
- Inability to get a job in certain fields, including healthcare and education,
- DIfficulty finding any employment, at all,
- Difficulty renting or buying a home,
- Loss of gun ownership rights,
- Revocation of professional licenses,
- Adverse decisions in child custody and/or visitation matters, and
- Inability to participate in government welfare programs.
Fighting Criminal Charges in Los Angeles
Poor choices can change a life forever. The best thing these three young men (and anyone else charged with a crime) can do is speak with an attorney. Criminal matters are incredibly serious and can have life-altering consequences. Hiring an attorney to handle the matter will increase the odds of securing the best possible outcome. If you are facing criminal charges in Los Angeles do not hesitate to call the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center for help.