Is Making a Gun Gesture with the Hand a Criminal Offense?

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2019 | Criminal Defense

You might know that pointing a firearm at a person is a crime. However, did you also know that making a gun hand gesture with your forefinger and thumb could also result in criminal charges?

It may seem a little absurd that pointing a “finger gun” at another person could constitute behavior that violates Pennsylvania laws. However, a man was charged with and convicted of disorderly conduct for making the gesture at one of his neighbors. He tried to challenge the judgment, but an appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision.

A Neighborhood Stroll Leads to a 9-1-1 Call

The incident leading up to the man’s conviction began when he was walking down the street with one of his neighbors. He and his companion were passing by the home of a person with whom there was a history of contention.

The three made eye contact with each other, and the homeowner allegedly made a rude gesture at the neighbors as they passed by. The man responded by making a gun hand gesture and pointing it at the other man. Another neighbor witnessed the incident and called the police.

The homeowner stated that he felt “extremely threatened” when his neighbor pointed a finger gun at him. The neighbor who made the call to the cops said the man’s actions made her feel “insecure.”

The incident was caught on the homeowner’s security cameras, which he had installed because of past confrontations with his neighbors.

A Finger Gun and Criminal Charges

The man who made the gun hand gesture was charged with disorderly conduct.

This offense is a third-degree misdemeanor that involves:

  • Intending to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm by:
    • Fighting, threatening, or engaging in violent behavior
    • Making loud or unreasonable noise
    • Using foul language or making an obscene gesture
    • Creating a dangerous or physically offensive situation

Disorderly conduct is a third-degree misdemeanor if the actor’s intent was to cause harm. In all other circumstances, it’s a summary offense.

The man was convicted and ordered to pay a $100 fine and court costs.

A Challenge to the Initial Judgment

The man appealed the decision, arguing that his hand gesture did not create a dangerous or physically offenses situation because it wasn’t a real gun.

Unfortunately, the appeals court did not accept the man’s argument. It stated that the neighbor with whom the man was walking had a “no-contact” order prohibiting them from interacting with the homeowner. Additionally, making a gun hand gesture had no real purpose other than to aggravate a contentious situation.

Speak with the Law Offices of William D. Thompson – Your Initial Consultation Is Free

When charged with a crime in Scranton, having a seasoned attorney on your side could make a substantial difference in your case. Our lawyer knows the ins and outs of the law and can handle both misdemeanor and felony matters. We will focus on the details of your situation to develop a unique legal strategy and work toward a favorable outcome on your behalf.

We’re here to provide sound legal guidance 24/7. Contact us online or call us at 570-846-2819 to schedule your free case evaluation.