Accidental Firing of Gun in State College – Recklessly Endangering Another Person Trial
Client and his girlfriend spent approximately 6 hours at Café 210 West in State College having some drinks during an August evening. According to bar staff, Client had consumed four pitchers of beer and two 24-ounce glasses of beer but was not visibly intoxicated. Client and his girlfriend left the bar. Regrettably, an argument ensued. Client jumped a nearby chain link fence and then hid under some bushes to remove himself from the situation. Client then realized that he had been lawfully carrying his firearm, but he feared that he may have lost it when he jumped the fence. He reached for his firearm, and he accidentally discharged it. Client was scared, so he hid the gun under a nearby air conditioning unit on Penn State’s campus, and he walked away from the area. The police responded and began an investigation. Client returned to the scene and cooperated with the police. He told them what had happened, and he led them to the gun.
The Penn State police charged Client with a misdemeanor of Recklessly Endangering Another Person and summary offenses of Disorderly Conduct and Public Drunkenness. The District Attorney refused to resolve the case via the ARD program, so the case proceeded to a trial before a Centre County jury.
Experienced State College trial attorney Jason S. Dunkle argued that Client was not guilty of Recklessly Endangering Another Person because his actions were probably negligent but were not reckless. The legal definition of “reckless” means that the person’s conduct was a gross deviation from what a normal person would do, and that those actions placed another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury. No person was in the line of fire of the gun, so no person was placed in danger of death or serious bodily injury. The jury agreed with Attorney Dunkle’s argument and found Client NOT GUILTY of Recklessly Endangering Another Person.
The judge found Client guilty of the summary offenses of Public Drunkenness and Disorderly Conduct, but Client had already admitted that he had committed those much lesser violations by being intoxicated and causing a public inconvenience with the accidental firing of the gun. Client was sentenced to pay fines and costs. The summary convictions were expunged after Client stayed out of trouble for the next 5 years.