Use of Firearm Under Influence in NSW: An In-depth Examination of the Offence, Penalties, and Possible Defences
Firearm regulation in New South Wales (NSW) is a matter of critical public safety. While much attention is paid to the possession and safekeeping of firearms, another offence that carries serious legal implications is using firearms while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This offence is governed by the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW), which lays out strict provisions to prevent the misuse of firearms and promote public safety.
Understanding the Offence
Section 86 of the Firearms Act 1996 states that a person must not use a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug. This means that it is an offence to handle a firearm if you have consumed alcohol or taken drugs to the extent that your capacity to use the firearm safely is, in any way, impaired.
Take, for instance, a scenario where John, who has a firearm licence, decides to go hunting after consuming several beers. Even though he feels he controls the situation, if his blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit, he is breaking the law. Similarly, if Sarah, another licensed firearm owner, takes prescription medication that impairs her coordination or judgement and then uses her firearm for target practice, she could also be charged with this offence.
Penalties for the use of firearms under the influence
The penalties for using a firearm under the influence in NSW are severe. The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of 50 penalty units and/or imprisonment for two years. However, if the offence is committed publicly, the maximum penalty increases to 100 penalty units and/or imprisonment for five years.
In determining the penalty, the court will consider a range of factors, including the offender’s criminal history, the circumstances of the offence, the type of firearm involved, and whether the offender pleaded guilty or not guilty.
Several defences could potentially be raised in response to a charge of using a firearm under the influence.
- Honest and Reasonable Mistake of Fact: If a person can establish that they honestly and reasonably believed they were not impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of the offence, this could be used as a defence.
- Necessity: In rare circumstances, a person may argue that they had to use the firearm while under the influence due to an immediate and serious threat. However, this defence would require strong evidence and would not be applicable in most cases.
- Duress: If a person can demonstrate that they were forced or threatened into using the firearm while under the influence, this could potentially be used as a defence.
Using a firearm under the influence in NSW is a serious offence, carrying significant penalties.. The safest way to avoid these penalties is to never handle a firearm after consuming alcohol or taking any drug that could impair your ability to use the firearm safely. If you are facing such charges, seeking legal advice immediately is crucial.