Important Aspects of NJ Gun Cases

gun and handcuffs

After getting released from jail for illegal possession of a firearm, you face the reality that your predicament has potentially severe consequences. You did not realize that New Jersey laws are strict when it comes to having a gun without a permit. In fact, you may be sentenced to mandatory prison time if convicted and you’re unsure how to clear yourself of the charges. You might think that getting a lawyer is a waste of time and money because the superior court prosecutor has all the power, and the punishment is firm; you believe your sentence is not up for debate.

Perhaps the state even has the facts on their side, since you know you had a gun in your possession without a firearms purchasing permit or handgun permit from NJ, even if you legally purchased your gun in another state, and so you think you must face whatever sentence the judge gives you. You feel powerless and resigned. However, even if you face Graves Act mandatory minimum sentencing, you could possibly avoid it through Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) for a gun charge. Believe it or not, it happens and is a distinct possibility in some cases. Without a highly qualified criminal defense lawyer though, how will you know what can be done and how to get the best outcome in your case?

Possession is Important in a New Jersey Gun Case

Anyone who qualifies may legally purchase a firearm in New Jersey. To do so, they must first apply for a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card at their local or state police station. If it is their first Firearms Purchaser Identification Card, the applicant must be fingerprinted, pay a fee, complete all of the steps in the application process, and then do the same at each renewal. Without the necessary permitting from this state, a person is at risk of being charged with unlawful possession of a weapon for having a gun without a permit. An individual can also be charged with using a legally possessed weapon for an unlawful purpose.

​​Gun cases also arise when a firearm is possessed by a person who has been prohibited from having one. Federal law prohibits those convicted of felonies or domestic violence or serious mental health conditions from purchasing or possessing firearms. New Jersey law goes further in specifying the specific criminal convictions that make a person a “certain person.” These include crimes such as aggravated assault, arson, burglary, extortion, enticement, homicide, kidnappingrobberysexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, carjacking, gang criminal activity, racketeering, terroristic threats, possession of illegal weapons, possessing an assault weapon, leading a firearm trafficking operation, endangering the welfare of a childstalking, and domestic violence.

In addition, one who has been committed to a hospital or other facility for a mental disorder cannot purchase firearms. Neither can those convicted for indictable drug crimes and those convicted in another state or country for similar crimes. Furthermore, those addicted to substances or who falsify documents to get a permit or card, anyone under 21, or a juvenile convicted for what would have been a crime had an adult committed the offense also cannot have a firearms identification card. Being charged with a certain persons offense exposes you to significant prison time and an additional felony conviction on your criminal record. 

Common Types of Guns that Lead to Gun Charges in NJ

In addition to covering legally owned guns that are used illegally, New Jersey gun laws also cover far more than just handguns. In fact, the state’s gun laws actually define the term “gun” very broadly so that many different types of weapons can trigger a criminal charge. Some of the different types of guns that are addressed by NJ gun laws include:

The charges, and accompanying penalties, for a gun crime can vary, depending on the type of offense and the type of gun. As one might expect, guns that might be considered “more dangerous” like machine guns tend to bring more serious charges and stiffer penalties than guns that are considered less dangerous like BB guns. Similarly, certain deadly weapons are more strictly regulated than others. An assault firearm, for instance, requires a special type of license that can be issued only by a superior court judge. A license to own one of these types of guns is typically difficult to obtain, with many judges restricting the ability to own an assault firearm to law enforcement officers.

On the other end of the spectrum from deadly assault weapons are imitation firearms. An imitation firearm is defined in the NJ criminal code as any object or device that is reasonably capable of being mistaken for a firearm. Technically, this could include just about anything that resembles a real gun – even a toy gun or water pistol. In practice, the law regulating imitation firearms tends to be applied in cases involving weapons possession for unlawful purposes. As for BB guns, these are still considered firearms, so you can be charged with an indictable crime if you unlawfully possess one. It is also possible to run afoul of the law and face criminal charges if you are caught using a BB gun, pellet gun, or paintball gun to commit an unlawful act. The resulting charge would likely be for possessing a weapon for an unlawful purpose, which is a felony-level offense that carries harsh penalties.

Discovery (Evidence) in NJ Gun Cases

During the early stages of a case, the Defendant will receive discovery.  Discovery is the evidence the State has against the Defendant. In most gun cases, this would include the Complaint, Public Safety Assessment, photos, statements, narratives and more.  The Defendant is entitled to receive a copy of the discovery so that he or she knows what evidence the State has and so that he or she can adequately build a defense.

Do You have a Gun Case? Contact our Law Office in Middlesex County

As you can see there are different guns, permit-related issues, possession elements, and different scenarios that could result in guns and weapons related charges against you or someone you love. On top of that, gun charges in this State are considered very serious. Not only are you forced to navigate the criminal process in Superior Court, but you may be forced to cope with the harsh reality of mandatory minimum sentencing under the Graves Act. It is important to have an attorney help you navigate your case with the best defense approach because so much is at risk for your future. If you or a loved one has a pending gun case in New Jersey, contact our law office in Middlesex County today at  (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation.

William Proetta

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.