Brandishing a Firearm in Virginia
What is Brandishing a Firearm
“Brandish” means to exhibit or expose in a shameless, ostentatious, or aggressive manner. For a person to be convicted of brandishing a firearm, the Commonwealth must prove that the defendant pointed, held, or brandished any firearm or air or gas operated weapon or any object similar in appearance, regardless of whether it is capable of being fired or not, in a manner to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another. A person can also be convicted of brandishing a firearm if the Commonwealth can prove that the defendant held a firearm or any air or gas operated weapon in a public place in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured. VA Code § 18.2-282.
Penalties Associated with Brandishing a Firearm
Brandishing a firearm is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which means it carries the possibility of 1 year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. However, if the violation occurs upon any public, private, or religious elementary, middle, or high school, or upon public property within 1,000 feet of the school grounds or buildings, it is a Class 6 felony, which means it carries the possibility of 1 to 5 years in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.
Defense Against Brandishing a Firearm
Any person engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense will not be legally liable for brandishing a firearm. Therefore, a person will not be convicted of brandishing a firearm if they reasonably believed that they were in imminent danger of an overt act threatening unlawful force, serious bodily harm, or death, and used the amount of force reasonable in relation to the harm threatened.
Defense of others is also a permissible defense against brandishing a firearm in some circumstances. If the person being defended would have been justified in using self-defense, then the person defending them is justified. However, someone may not defend another person unless he or she reasonably believes that the person did not provoke the attack.
It is unlawful to maliciously discharge a firearm within any building when occupied by one or more persons in such a manner as to endanger the life or lives of such person or persons, or maliciously shoot at or throw any missile at or against any home or other building occupied by one or more persons, whereby the life or lives of any such person or persons may be put in peril. VA Code Ann. § 18.2-279. Unlawful discharge of a firearm or missile within or at a building or home is a Class 4 felony, which means it carries the possibility of 2 to 10 years in jail and up to a $100,000 fine.
It is unlawful to discharge or cause to be discharged any firearm in any street in a city or town, or in any place of public business or place of public gathering. If such conduct results in bodily injury to another person, it is a Class 6 felony. If such conduct does not result in bodily injury to another person, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor. VA Code Ann. § 18.2-280.