California Penal Code Section 246 - Interpretation

In People v. Stepney (1981) 120 Cal.App.3d 1016, the defendant forced his way into the victim's home, demanded money, and while standing in the living room, fired his gun at the television set to prove he was "'not playing any games.'" (Id. at 1018.) The appellate court interpreted Penal Code section 246, which prohibits shooting at an inhabited dwelling, as not including a shooting that occurred inside the building. The defendant's conviction under section 246 was not supportable because he did not fire the gun at the house. (Stepney, supra, at p. 1021.) Section 246 is violated when a person intentionally discharges a firearm either directly at a proscribed target (e.g. an occupied vehicle or inhabited dwelling house) or in close proximity to the target under circumstances showing a conscious disregard for the probability that one or more bullets will strike the target or persons in or around it. (People v. Overman (2005) 126 Cal.App.4th 1344, 1361 (Overman).) No specific intent to strike the target, kill or injure persons, or achieve any other result beyond shooting at or in the general vicinity or range of the target is required. (Ibid.) "The defendant's conscious indifference to the probability that a shooting will achieve a particular result is inferred from the nature and circumstances of his act." (Id. at pp. 1356-1357.)