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People v. Hollis: Court Discusses Negligent Discharge of a Firearm Law

August 25, 2008 Criminal Law and Procedure

The Michigan Court of Appeals in People v. Hollis takes a look at the statute for negligently discharging a firearm. The Defendant in this case appealed a jury’s verdict. The appeal argued a lack of sufficiency of evidence to uphold the conviction.

What Happened in the Case

Hollis was the only witness in the case. He was sitting with a shotgun across his lap. Hollis claimed to believe there were only three shells in the shotgun which he had ejected just before the incident. He then pulled the trigger, later stating he though the safety was on. There turned out to be at least one more shell in the gun. The shot from the gun killed his girlfriend in an adjacent room. Hollis told police he didn’t think his girlfriend was in the adjacent room and he thought the gun was pointed at a wall.

The Law

Hollis was charged with negligent discharge of a firearm under MCL 752.861. The law states that it is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in prison or one year in the county jail, to carelessly, recklessly, or negligently discharge a firearm and kill or injure another person.

The Appeal

On appeal, Hollis argued there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of this charge. The Court did not agree.

An expert at trial testified the gun was not more than 6 inches from the girlfriend when it was fired. The Court wrote this testimony tended to refute Hollis’s claims. The expert’s testimony tended to cast doubt on Hollis’s claim the shotgun was on his lap. The Court also focused on the fact that there were two shells in the shotgun after Hollis claimed that he thought all shells were out of the shotgun. The Court concluded the facts supported a verdict of either negligent or careless discharge of a firearm.

Charged with Negligent Discharge of a Firearm?

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

Read More on Firearms Law

This case is captioned as People v. Hollis, 30 Mich. App. 218 (1971), 186 N.W.2d 8