In New Jersey, it is not illegal for certain people to own or possess firearms. However, under certain conditions possession of a firearm could become illegal. In order to avoid any legal problems, it is important to understand when and where you can legally possess a gun in New Jersey.
Gun Possession – Who is Allowed?
The first step to obtaining a firearm is to apply for and be granted a Firearms Identification Card (FID). The FID will allow you to obtain rifles and shotguns without an additional gun permit and to obtain a handgun with an additional permit. With the FID, you may have a legal firearm within your home or place of business that you own. You are also permitted to transport a firearm from one place to another, provided it is kept in a locked container and the bullets are removed from the magazine and both are separated from the handgun.
Under N.J.S. 2C:39-5(b), possession of a handgun in New Jersey, without an FID and a permit, is a crime of the second degree, and punishable by 5 to 10 years in State prison. Under N.J.S 2C:39-5(c), possession of a shotgun or rifle without an FID is a crime of the third degree, and punishable by 3 to 5 years in State Prison.
Gun Possession – Who is Prohibited?
The following persons are prohibited from obtaining or possessing a firearm in New Jersey:
- Any person being convicted of a crime or disorderly person’s offense involving domestic violence.
- Any person who is dependent on drugs.
- Ant person considered a drunkard
- Any person committed to a mental institution or who has ever been confined for a mental disorder, unless a psychiatrist says otherwise.
- Any person, suffering from a physical defect or disease, where possession of a firearm would be dangerous unless a doctor says otherwise.
- Anyone under 18 years of age for all firearms, and under 21 for a handgun.
- Anyone on the terrorist watchlist.
- Anyone who has ever had their firearm seized under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
- Anyone convicted of a crime under N.J.S. 2C:43-7.2, including as a juvenile. All persons prohibited from owning a firearm are also prohibited from owning and having possession of ammunition. Federal and state restrictions on ammunition transfer and possession must be considered.
Specific New Jersey Gun Crimes:
N.J.S. 2C:39-4(a) Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purposes: Firearm
In New Jersey, it is a crime to possess a firearm with the purpose or intent to use it in an unlawful manner against another person or their property. Such possession is a second-degree crime and is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison. If used during the course of a robbery, kidnapping, assault, or other serious violation, then you are subject to the No Early Release Act, where you must serve 85% of your sentence.
N.J.S. 2C: 39:4-1, Possession of a Weapon while in Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance.
New Jersey punishes those who possess any firearm while conducting drug dealing activities. If you are arrested for possession of a firearm, while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance, with intent to distribute, you are guilty of a second-degree crime. This is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison. In addition, you will be subject to a minimum time in confinement without parole eligibility.
N.J.S 2C:39-5(b), Unlawful Possession of a Handgun
New Jersey does not offer open carry or concealed carry privileges to its citizens. In fact, New Jersey has very strict storage requirements for taking your firearm from one location to another. If you do not properly store your firearm, or you take the handgun out into the public without the proper licensing, then you can be charged with unlawful Possession of a Firearm, in violation of N.J.S., 2C:39-5(b), which is a second-degree crime and punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison.
N.J.S. 2C:35-5(c), Unlawful Possession of a Rifle or Shotgun.
New Jersey law is very confusing when it comes to possession and ownership of a rifle or shotgun. This crime includes those who do not have an FID card as well as those who do not properly transport the firearm in an approved container. N.J.S. 2C:35-5(c), makes it unlawful to knowingly have in your possession, any rifle or shotgun without the proper Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FID). However, possession may not be illegal if you qualify for an exemption under N.J.S. 2C:35-6. Unlawful Possession of a rifle or shotgun is a third-degree crime and is punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison.
N.J.S. 2C:39-3(f), Possession of Dum-dum or Body Armor Penetrating Bullets.
The illegal possession of certain bullets can get you in very serious trouble in New Jersey. The possession of any hollow-nose, dum-dum, or other body-piercing bullets, other than by a licensed collector, is a fourth-degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
N.J.S. 2C:39-3(c), Possession of a silencer.
The possession of a firearm silencer in New Jersey is a crime of the fourth degree, and punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
N.J.S. 2C:39-1(f), Possession of a BB Gun.
As crazy as it sounds, New Jersey treats the possession of a BB style gun as if you possessed a rifle or shotgun. Thus, if you possess a BB gun unlawfully, without an FID, or use it unlawfully, you can be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm or possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes. Possession of a BB gun is a third-degree crime and is punishable by 3 to 5 years in State Prison.
N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(c), also known as the “Graves Act” subjects a person convicted of certain firearm offenses to a minimum term of imprisonment. The term of imprisonment will be fixed at, or between, 1/3 to 1/2 of a sentence imposed, or 3 years, whichever is greater (or 18 months in cases involving crimes of the fourth degree), and during this time, the person shall not be eligible for parole or Intensive Supervised Probation (ISP). If you have previously been convicted of a “Graves Act Offense,” you are subject to a term of imprisonment of at least five years, during which time you would not be eligible for parole. These crimes covered under the “Graves Act,” includes:
- Unlawful Possession of a Machine Gun, Handgun, Rifle or Shotgun
- Possession of a Sawed-Off Shotgun
- Possession of a Defaced Firearm
- Possession of a Firearm While in the Course of a Drug Distribution.
- Possession of Certain Weapons by certain Persons not to own/possess a firearm.
Defending a New Jersey Firearms Weapons Possession Charge
There are a few defenses available in a weapons possession case. The most common defense is that the weapon was discovered in violation of your Fourth Amendment Right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, or that you were stopped and detained without cause. In either case, an experienced lawyer must be prepared to file a motion to suppress the discovered evidence. If the court grants the motion, then the weapon charges and all charges related to its discovery may not be used in your prosecution.
In addition, your attorney should also be prepared to investigate the following:
- Whether the firearm was actually illegal?
- Whether there are others who are responsible for the firearm?
- Was the firearm operable?
- Did you have a permit, even an out-of-state permit?
- Where was the firearm found? The fact that it was in your home, might make the possession legal.
New Jersey Firearms Defense Lawyer, Steven W. Hernandez
If you are facing a charge of illegal firearm possession in New Jersey, the potential consequences can be severe. Having strong legal advocacy from an experienced New Jersey Criminal defense attorney is crucial in these circumstances. Steven W. Hernandez will provide you with an aggressive representation to mitigate, or possibly eliminate, the penalties associated with your charges. Steven W. Hernandez, Esq., can review the details and circumstances of your case in order to construct a tailoring comprehensive defense against the charges you face. To help ensure your rights and future are protected, allow a firearms lawyer from our firm to fight for you.
Request a free consultation. Call us today at 732-2876-2700 today!