Seizure of Weapons in NJ Domestic Violence Cases

couple arguing

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(d), the Domestic Violence Act authorizes the police to confiscate the weapons from the defendant if they have reason to believe that domestic violence had taken place. When the police arrive at the scene of a domestic violence complaint they may search the house without a warrant and seize whatever weapons inside as long as (1) the officers have probable cause to believe the aggressor had committed an act of domestic violence; (2) the officers have reason to believe the aggressor has access to weapons, which could be based on victims statements; (3) the officers have a reasonable cause to believe the weapons pose a “heightened risk to the victim” and (4) the totality of the circumstances demonstrate the officers acted reasonably.  This is a very low threshold and gives the police broad powers to search your house and confiscate your firearms or weapons even if they were not used in the alleged domestic violence incident. Once your guns and weapons are confiscated you will be fighting a tough uphill battle – even if all restraining order and criminal domestic violence proceedings are dismissed your weapons can still be forfeited if the court finds it is in the interest of public health, safety, or welfare.

Final Restraining Order Results in Forfeiture of Weapons

A defendant who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is considered unfit to own or possess firearms. Furthermore, once a Final Restraining Order (FRO) is placed against you, federal and state law prohibits you from owning firearms and you are required to forfeit all your guns, weapons and firearm permits pursuant to the Federal Firearm statute, 18 U.S.C . 922g(9) and State v. S.A., 290 N.J. Super. 240 (App. Div. 1996). Once the court orders the forfeiture of your weapons, you have 60 days to sell any firearms to a registered dealer under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(d). This provision guarantees that the constitutional provision against the taking of property without just compensation will not be violated. Under the same logic, if you have a FRO issued against you, you will not be able to obtain a firearms purchaser identification card.

Therefore, if you own firearms and you are the defendant in a domestic violence case or final restraining order it is important that you contact an experienced attorney to protect your interests. By law you are entitled to have a hearing within 45 days after your weapons have been seized. When the police seize any weapons from a domestic violence case, they immediately turn them over to the County Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office then has 45 days from the time they take possession of the weapons to determine whether they want to take forfeiture action against the owner of the weapon. Forfeiture proceedings are civil hearings that are completely different from any criminal charges you may be facing for the alleged domestic violence. Each defendant is entitled to a summary hearing where they have an opportunity to argue and put forth their case as to why the weapons should not be forfeited.

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.