Unlawful Possession of a Weapon

A Team of Former Prosecutors With Many Decades Of Experience Defending Weapon Charges Is Ready To Assist You

The New Jersey weapon and firearm laws are all-encompassing and deal with almost every contingency in terms of possession, use, sale and discharge. N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5 is directed at the unlawful possession machine guns, handguns, rifles, shotguns and other weapons. If you are charged and convicted for possessing any of these items in violation of 2C:39-5, you face years in prison and a felony on your record. This is why it is so important that you consult an experienced defense lawyer — preferably one that has successfully defended many weapon charges.

We are the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, a team of ten (10) accomplished NJ criminal lawyers that have credentials tht unquestionably rare and impressive. Our firm possesses:

  • Over 200 years of combined experience
  • Specialization in nothing other than defense of the accused
  • Former county prosecutors that have handled key positions like Director of Major Crimes, Guns Task Force and the entire Trial Division in a county
  • Certified criminal trial attorneys, an accomplishment handled by less than 2% of those licensed in New Jersey
  • A long history of success in defending charges for unlawful possession of a firearm and other weapons

All of the lawyers on our staff are highly knowledgeable and skilled in defending unlawful possession charges. An attorney is available 24/7 to discuss your case, including those defenses that we believe will be effective in obtaining an acquittal, avoiding penalties or succeeding at an initial detention hearing. Contact our firm at 1-877-450-8301 for immediate assistance from an attorney.

New Jersey Unlawful Possession of a Weapon Charge

N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5 covers a countless number of items that fall within the definition of a weapon. Certain varieties are set forth by name because they frequently arise at the New Jersey Superior Court. We have prepared in depth articles separately on these subjects, including unlawful possession of a handgun and unlawful possession of a rifle or shotgun. This page is directed at unlawful possession of “other weapons” (i.e. something other than a firearm) under 2C:39-5(d). This subsection of the unlawful possession statute provides that “any person who knowingly has in his possession any weapon [other than a handgun, rifle, shotgun or machine gun] under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as it may have is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.”  The elements of this offense include: (1) the existence of a weapon; (2) possession by the defendant; (3) knowledge of the nature and character of the instrument by the defendant; and (4) circumstances demonstrating that the object was not manifestly appropriate for lawful use.

Definition of “Weapon” Under 2C:39-5

Weapon means anything readily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury. In addition to firearms the term weapon includes gravity knives, switchblade knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, or other dangerous knives, billies, blackjacks, bludgeons, metal knuckles, sandclubs, slingshots, cestis or similar leather bands studded with metal filings or razor blades embedded in wood, stun guns and any other weapon which projects, releases or emits tear gas or any other substance intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air.

Actual or Constructive Possession

Possession is established where there is either direct control over the object or where an individual is aware of the existence of the object and has the ability and intention to exercise control over the item.

Circumstances Not Manifestly Appropriate for Lawful Use

Circumstances not manifestly appropriate encompasses either a threat of harm to a person or threat of damage to property. For example, possession of a paintball gun for purpose of firing it at an automobile would fall not be manifestly appropriate for lawful use. A paintball gun obviously could be possessed for lawful use but when the situation involves inappropriateness, the character becomes illegal. A good test for determining whether a use is lawful or illegal is consider the New Jersey Model Jury Question: “if you find that the circumstances under which the weapon was possessed could not be easily understood or recognized as being appropriate to a lawful use of the instrument in question here then possession of the weapon is prohibited.” See State v. Wright, 96 N.J. 170, 172 (1984). You could apply this question to possession of a knife and facts like size, shape, condition, means of concealment, and the nature in which the knife was used would be highly relevant.

Separate Independant Crime

It must be kept in mind that this offense is separate and apart from Possession of a Weapon or Firearm for Unlawful Purpose, Possession of a Firearm During CDS Activities or a Certain Person Not To Possess A Weapon charge.  This is an independent offense which applies under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) when included in a complaint, charge or indictment. There is significant similarity between this offense and a Possession of an Illegal Weapon. Both charges are Fourth Degree crimes and require many of the same elements in order to prove a violation. Unlawful Possession of a Weapon is a much broader charge, however, as it has the potential to encompass virtually anything other than a firearm that can be used as a weapon whereas an Illegal Weapons offense is limited to a specific enumerated weapon set forth by statute such as a sawed off shotgun, high capacity magazine, silencer, hollow tip bullets, assault rifle, or body armer.


Self defense is a viable defense to a charge under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) but is limited to those circumstances where its use is spontaneous in response to a compelling danger. The defense cannot be invoked where an individual is carrying the weapon as a precaution.

Unlawful Possession of a Weapon Attorneys in NJ

If you were arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon you need to contact a defense lawyer immediately. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is proud to help clients defend unlawful possession of a weapon charges and, more importantly, help clients secure acquittals on many occasions. We have successfully fought a vast array of felony weapons crimes throughout New Jersey and are ready to do everything possible to ensure that you achieve the very best outcome in your matter. Call us now at 877-450-8301 to get our legal team on your side.