Drive-by shootings are a common scenario often associated with gang violence in Pittsburgh. It might seem like legislators would have written some kind of law that addresses this type of shooting. However, despite the prevalence of drive-by shootings, there is no specific “drive-by shooting” offense in Pennsylvania law.
Instead, a prosecutor can charge you with one or more of the several offenses that apply to the act of shooting a weapon at others from a vehicle. Under some circumstances, a conviction could mean that you end up spending the rest of your life in jail. Even if you get away with a lenient prison sentence, you would have serious charges on your permanent criminal record that can make you ineligible for some if not most jobs.
If you’ve been accused of committing a drive-by shooting, the best thing you can do is to call a firm of experienced Pittsburgh weapons lawyers who can work to get your charge reduced or dismissed. Until then, do not talk to the police or the prosecutors. It can only hurt your case.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we are passionate about helping our clients get the best outcome possible when confronting the criminal justice system. With our experience defending all kinds of criminal cases, we know how the case against you will be built — and how it can be defeated.
Carrying a Firearm in an Automobile
In most cases, if you’re suspected of committing a drive-by shooting you may be charged with unlawfully carrying a firearm in a vehicle. Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Chapter 16, §1606 provides that anyone who carries a firearm in a vehicle without a proper license may be guilty of a third-degree felony. This can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
The offense is a first-degree misdemeanor if you were otherwise eligible for a license, and you didn’t commit any criminal violations while carrying the firearm. The penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor is up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Assault With a Deadly Weapon
Another charge you may face for a non-fatal drive-by shooting is aggravated assault. Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Chapter 27, §2702 provides that a person commits aggravated assault when he or she:
- Knowingly and intentionally causes or attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury intentionally
- Intentionally or knowingly attempts to cause or causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
Aggravated assault is a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
If the bullets reach an occupied building, Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Chapter 27, §2707.1 comes into play. This statute states that a person who knowingly, intentionally or recklessly discharges a firearm from any location into an occupied structure may be guilty of a third-degree felony, which can result in up to 7 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Murder and Manslaughter
When the shooting is fatal, the charges become much more serious and you may face a murder or manslaughter allegation. Whether you’re charged with murder or manslaughter comes down to whether the prosecutor can prove premeditation and intent to kill.
When you are believed to have had a premeditated intent to kill, Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Chapter 25, §2502 defines three grades of murder:
- First-Degree Murder — when the suspect commits an intentional killing
- Second-Degree Murder — when defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony
- Third-Degree Murder — for all other kinds of murder
First-degree and second-degree murder are non-categorized felonies, which means that the judge can order a sentence of any number of years — or even the death penalty. Third-degree murder is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
In cases where the prosecutor does not have evidence of your premeditated intent to kill, you may be charged with voluntary manslaughter under Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Chapter 25, §2503. The statute provides that a person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits voluntary manslaughter if at the time of the killing he or she was acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by:
- The individual killed; or
- Another whom the suspect tries to kill, but negligently or accidentally causes the death of another person
Voluntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony carrying a penalty of 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Finally, a prosecutor may charge you with involuntary manslaughter where there is no evidence of the suspect’s intent to kill. Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Chapter 25, §2504 states that a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when as a direct result of acting in a reckless or grossly negligent manner he or she causes the death of another person.
Involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and no more than $10,000 in fines.
How Pittsburgh Weapons Lawyers Can Helps
If you’ve been charged with any of the crimes described above, you could face severe penalties — including up to life in prison or the death penalty. Your team of Pittsburgh weapons lawyers can help you by using some of the strategies below:
- Having the evidence against you thrown out because it was obtained illegally or without a proper warrant
- Objecting to crucial evidence of the prosecution’s case based on the rules of evidence and procedure
- Showing that your arrest and subsequent detention and interrogation were unconstitutional
- Proving that you did not commit the actions of which you are accused
- Claiming that you did not act with criminal intent
- Advocating for a lenient sentence by highlighting mitigating factors for the judge at the sentencing hearing
If you want to learn more about how we can help, you can call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential consultation regarding your case.