With a lack of state-to-state reciprocity regarding gun permits, New Jersey sees an an alarming number of charges for unlawful possession of a weapon against out-of-state travelers who cross state lines with guns that have been legally purchased and permitted in their state of residency. This philosophy of vigorous gun enforcement is reflected in a number of New Jersey’s weapons laws, with mandatory minimums and prescribed sentencing guidelines under New Jersey’s Graves Act, as well as the No Early Release Act (NERA). Similarly, other offenses involving knives and even BB guns, can lead to felony-level criminal charges, and State Prison terms. Unfortunately, the reality is that charges for unlawful possession of a weapon can originate in a multitude of circumstances against individuals who have no idea that they are actually committing a crime.
At The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our team of former municipal and county prosecutors and award-winning defense attorneys has successfully defended countless clients charged with gun and other weapons crimes in court rooms across New Jersey. Members of our firm have been recognized as leaders in our field through diligence, a relentless pursuit of further knowledge and education, and an unwavering commitment to protecting the rights of our clients. Having earned accolades such as inclusion in the Top 100 Criminal Attorneys and Best Attorneys in America, we choose to support these honors with thousands of satisfied clients and their grateful families. If you or someone you love has been charged with a weapons offense in New Jersey, one of our talented lawyers is always available to address your questions and concerns. Simply contact us at 908-722-1011. Consultations are always free of charge.
Unlawful Possession of a Weapon in New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5
Unlawful Possession of a Weapon offenses are detailed in section N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5 of the New Jersey Criminal Code, which distinguishes among specific weapons and delineates the varying degree of these charges. The statute addresses each of the following weapons categorizations:
- Machine Guns: Any person who knowingly has in his possession a machine gun or instrument or device adaptable for use as a machine gun without being licensed is guilty of a crime of the second degree.
- Handguns: Any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including an antique handgun without first having obtained a permit to carry same is guilty of a crime of the second degree. However, if the gun is in the nature of an air gun or pellet pistol then the crime is of the third degree.
- Rifles or Shotguns: Any person who knowingly has in her possession any rifle or shotgun without first having obtained a firearms purchaser identification card is guilty of a crime of the third degree. Unless otherwise permitted by law, any person who knowingly has in his possession any loaded rifle or shotgun is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
- Other Prohibited Weapons: Any person who knowingly has in his possession any other weapon under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as it may have is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.
Penalties for Unlawful Possession of Guns and Other Weapons in New Jersey
The potential consequences of a conviction for unlawful possession of a weapon are contingent upon the specific weapon associated with the offense and are distinguished as follows:
- Unlawful Possession of a Machine Gun: punishable by a period of between 5 to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison
- Unlawful Possession of a Handgun: punishable by a period of between 5 to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison
- Unlawful Possession of a Rifle or Shotgun: punishable by a term of incarceration ranging from 3 to 5 years in New Jersey State Prison
- Unlawful Possession of another Weapon: punishable by a maximum term of 18 months to be served in New Jersey State Prison
New Jersey’s Graves Act and Mandatory Minimums
Under New Jersey Law, unlawful possession of a weapon offenses involving handguns, machine guns, rifles, and shotguns are governed by the mandatory sentencing guidelines of New Jersey’s Graves Act, which requires a mandatory term of imprisonment with a minimum period of parole ineligibility fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of a sentence imposed, or 3 years, whichever is greater. Further, the Graves Act negates the presumption of non-incarceration associated with third and fourth degree crimes, meaning that a first-time offender charged with a Graves Act offense will not benefit from the presumption of non-incarceration that is typically attached to crimes of the third and fourth degree.
State Directive to Allow PTI Consideration for Certain Gun Offenders
After a number of high-profile cases brought attention to the lack of consideration for those charged with unlawful possession of a weapon while traveling through New Jersey with legally purchased and licensed out-of-state guns, the New Jersey Attorney General issued a directive which allows for judicial discretion if certain outstanding circumstances apply. If the following conditions are met, a defendant may be considered eligible for the diversionary program known as Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), which would allow them to avoid the otherwise mandatory prison sentence associated with these offenses. The person must: be a resident of another state, have no prior criminal record, have legally purchased and be licensed to possess the gun in their home state, inform law enforcement that they are in possession of a firearm, and have no knowledge of New Jersey’s gun restrictions, presuming that they were otherwise obeying the law. An experienced attorney can evaluate the circumstances of your case and if possible, facilitate your enrollment in PTI as an alternative to conviction.
Contact our Somerville NJ Weapons Charges Lawyers for Immediate Assistance
With the complex, contentious, and ever-evolving components of New Jersey weapons laws, it is essential to enlist an advocate with a thorough understanding of current case law, effective defense strategies, and the alternative avenues that may be available to you. For a free consultation with a member of our seasoned defense team, contact the law offices of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall today at 908 722-1011.