Currently the state of Arizona limits circumstances in which firearms can be carried onto school grounds.
Unless specifically outlined by law, carrying a loaded firearm on any school grounds will result in criminal charges under Arizona’s Weapons Misconduct law A.R.S. 13- 3102(12).
This article outlines the weapons misconduct laws related to guns on school grounds, threatening and intimidation (assault) laws; and criminal defense for weapons misconduct and assault charges.
In a recent Arizona gun crime case an appellate court considered a conviction of threatening or intimidating a victim in violation of A.R.S. § 13-1202(A)(1) and misconduct involving weapons in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3102(A)(12).
The case arose when the defendant and the victim got into a verbal fight on the road while driving in separate cars. The day after the incident, they saw each other in a school parking lot, and the victim approached the defendant’s truck on the school grounds. The victim noticed that the defendant was handling a gun. While holding the firearm, the defendant said “driving the like that will get you shot.” The victim reported the gun and the comment to a police officer at the school. The investigating officer looked at the defendant’s gun and found bullets in the magazine of the firearm, but not in the firing chamber.
The police charged the defendant with two counts of intimidation or threat and one count of misconduct involving weapons. Later, the court dismissed one intimidation count. But the defendant was convicted of the second intimidation charge, and one weapons misconduct count. He was sentenced to probation, a fine, and four sessions of anger management class. The defense moved for a rehearing on the conviction for weapons misconduct.
The defendant challenged the charges based on the exception for unloaded firearms under § 13-3102 arguing that the law was unconstitutionally vague because it did not define the word “loaded” as it pertained to the gun. The defendant’s view was that the exception could be interpreted as applying to a firearm that had bullets in the magazine, but not the firing chamber. The trial court did not agree with this, and denied the motion.
The defendant appealed to an Arizona Appeals Court. The defense argued that it was a mistake to affirm the convictions because sections 13-3102(A)(12) and 13-3102(I)(1) conflicted which caused them to be unconstitutionally vague.
Under Section 13-3102(A)(12), misconduct involving weapons happens when someone knowingly has a deadly weapon on school grounds. Section 13-3102(I)(1) allows an exception if the weapon is an firearm that’s not loaded and being carried within a method of transportation controlled by an adult. The defendant argued that the word “loaded” is vague because some states provide a narrower definition than “containing ammunition.” For example, in one state a firearm is loaded if there is an unused cartridge projectile or shell in a firing position or if the manual operation of it would cause it to be fired.
The appellate court explained that in their perspective a law is not unconstitutionally vague merely because it doesn’t explicitly define its terms or could be interpreted in more than one way.
The Appeals Court reasoned that the law provides a person of ordinary intelligence with enough notice that deadly weapons such as firearms aren’t allowed on school property. The defendant argued it was unconstitutionally vague when read in conjunction with the narrow exception. The appeals court disagreed, explaining the law wasn’t void only because it was challenging to figure out how far you could go before the law was violated.
The defendant couldn’t show vagueness by showing that “loaded” was defined differently in other states. The plain meaning of “loaded” means “containing ammunition,” as stated by the lower court. The phrase “not loaded” wasn’t unconstitutionally vague.
The court didn’t have jurisdiction to determine whether the lower court had committed a legal error in affirming his convictions. The appellate court declined to treat the appeal of the conviction as a special action and affirmed the weapons misconduct conviction.
What are Penalties for Assault and Weapons on School Grounds Charges?
Assault – Under Arizona’s Assault law A.R.S. 13-1202, charges are classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the assault is committed in retaliation of the suspect’s being reported of a criminal offense, or if it is gang-member related, charges will be brought as a Class 6 felony.
For Class 1 misdemeanors, penalties include jail terms with a maximum sentencing range of 6 months and a maximum fine of $2500.00 per person and $20,000.00 for enterprises. This does not include victim or community restitution, court fees, and assessments that may be ordered by the court.
Under A.R.S. 13-707(B) a person who is convicted of the same misdemeanor offense within 2 years, charges will be raised to the next highest classification.
If the assault charge is elevated to a Class 6 felony, the defendant will be exposed to a minimum of .5 and a maximum of 1.5 years. This could be lower or higher if mitigated or aggravated factors are involved.
Firearms on School Grounds – Under Arizona’s Weapons Misconduct law A.R.S 13– 3102 (12), charges for possessing a weapon on school grounds is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
However, if the conduct also involves violations of hiring, engaging or solicitation of minors into a crime syndicate, drug offenses, marijuana transfer or sales, or other illegal enterprise, charges will be classified as a Class 6 felony.
Non-dangerous Class 6 felony sentencing ranges call for .33 mitigated sentencing up to 2 years maximum for crimes involving aggravated circumstances.
Dangerous Class 6 felony sentences expose a person to 1.5 minimum up to 6 years maximum prison terms.
Repeat offenses for both non-dangerous and dangerous weapon crimes call for more harsh prison terms, and other additional penalties.
How does this Case Impact Gun Owners in Arizona?
When the court hears or decides on cases, they rely on state laws enacted by the Arizona legislature. But when the law does not fully address a particular issue in question, the court will look to prior case rulings, also referred to as precedents.
Unless the the issue or case has been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, there is also a chance it can be overturned in whole or in part by a higher court if appealed.
This court ruling centered upon the following laws, and precedents:
Under A.R.S. 13-1202 (A)(1) a person may be found guilty of assault if it is found that they threatened or intimidated a person verbally or by their actions involving a firearm. This means a person can be found guilty of assault even if they did not physically harm another, when the victim is threatened or intimidated by the words or conduct.
Under A.R.S. § 13- 3102 (1), a person may be found guilty of weapons misconduct if they knowingly possesses a loaded firearm on school grounds.
School grounds” means in or on the grounds of a school; “school” means kindergarten, grade school or high school whether public or private.
Under A.R.S. § 13- 3102 (I) (1) Arizona law provides an exception, to weapons misconduct laws if the firearm within the person’s possession or vehicle was not loaded with ammunition.
In this case ammunition was not in the chamber. However, there was ammunition in the magazine which holds the shells for the purpose of feeding the chamber repeatedly.
The defendant argued that the law was unconstitutionally vague because it does not define the word “loaded”, and that some states define it more narrowly.
When is it Legal for a Person to Carry a Loaded Gun onto School Property?
It also describes possessors who are eligible to carry loaded weapons onto the school grounds.
Below are some specific circumstances in which particular individuals are authorized to carry loaded guns on school grounds:
- A firearm that is not loaded, is locked in a vehicle, under the control of an adult, and not visible from the outside of the automobile;
- A firearm that is carried onto school property that has been approved for the purpose of being used in a school program;
- A firearm carried by qualified persons for the purpose of participating or instructing firearm safety, or hunting courses;
- A firearm carried by police officer, peace or security officer including one called upon by another officer to help with official security duties;
- A firearm carried by a member of the United States Military performing official duties;
- A firearm carried by a warden, deputy, investigator, or officer of a detention or juvenile corrections department performing official duties of their job;
- A firearm carried by an individual licensed, with permission, or authorization under this state law, or other United States Law, which to carry the weapon on school grounds as part of their official duties.
Criminal Defense Attorney for Weapons and Assault Crimes Mesa AZ
If you face either assault or weapons misconduct charges it is important that you obtain criminal defense representation for your charges.
James Novak of the Law Office of James Novak, PLLC is an experienced assault and weapons misconduct defense attorney. He is a former prosecutor, and effective trial attorney. If retained he will make sure your rights are protected, and provide you with a strong defense for your charges.
James Novak offers a free initial consultation for people facing weapons charges and other criminal charges in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Contact us online or call experienced criminal defense attorney James Novak at (480) 413-1499 to discuss your options for defense representation.
Additional Resource Links:
- A.R.S. § 13- 3102 I (1) | Weapons Misconduct Exceptions
- A.R.S. § 13- 3101 (A)(7) Prohibited Possessor
- A.R.S. § 13- 3101 (8) Prohibited Weapons
- A.R.S. § 13- 1203 (A)(2) Assault by Apprehension of Injury
- A.R.S.§ 13- 707(B) Misdemeanor Repeat Offense Sentencing
- A.R.S.§ 13- 1202 (A)(1) Threatening and Intimidation by Word or Conduct
- Phoenix Police Department | Weapons and Firearms Laws – FAQs
- Arizona Firearm Laws and Criminal Defense for Weapons Crimes
- Arizona Criminal Defenses for Assault with a Deadly Weapon
- Criminal Defense for Weapons Charges in Arizona
- Arizona Attorney General – Criminal Investigations
- Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department – FAQ
- A.R.S. § 13- 201 Requirements for Criminal Liability
- Phoenix Police Department | What to Remember if Stopped by Police
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