Criminal Recklessness for Negligent Discharge – Joseph v. State, 18A-CR-2896

Posted 1 year ago — Ooley Law Blog

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently upheld a jury verdict, which found the Defendant guilty of criminal recklessness for a negligent discharge.

The conviction was based on the improper cleaning of the handgun in proximity to a child and other residents of an apartment complex, which resulted in discharging the firearm and injuring his neighbor. The Defendant discharged the handgun, which was pointed at a common wall between Defendant’s bedroom and a neighbor’s apartment. The bullet struck Defendant’s neighbor in the abdomen. Defendant knew the handgun was defective in that it did not properly eject empty cases after firing. There was testimony that proper firearms handling would have involved engaging the safety, pointing the firearm in a safe direction, removing the magazine, racking the slide at least once, locking the slide back, and visually or physically inspecting the chamber to make sure the firearm was unloaded.

Apparently, Defendant did not engage the thumb safety mechanism of his handgun or make sure that it was unloaded prior to pointing the weapon and moving the slide back in an attempt to dislodge a bushing at the tip of the barrel. The Court of Appeals found that this was sufficient evidence from which the jury could conclude that the Defendant engaged in conduct that constituted the crime of criminal recklessness. Judge Pyle did not agree and dissented because, although the Defendant may have disregarded proper procedures for unloading, clearing, and disassembling the firearm, he did not have the intent necessary to commit a crime. Judge Pyle says he may have been negligent and liable civilly but not criminally liable.