Gun Crime Defense Attorney in NJ
Being charged with a gun crime in New Jersey can quickly turn your life upside down. New Jersey has some of the country’s strictest weapons laws, and violating those laws means that you may be facing massive fines and years of imprisonment.
When you’ve been arrested for a firearms offense in New Jersey, you need to act quickly to protect your rights, freedom, and future. A knowledgeable firearms crime defense lawyer can guide you through the criminal justice process and advise you as to the best course of action to minimize the consequences of your weapons charges.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a firearms offense in New Jersey, Clark, Clark & Noonan is ready to aggressively advocate for you and your rights.
We offer free consultations to all prospective clients so that they can get a sense of their legal rights and options and learn more about how our firm can help them obtain the best outcome in their charges.
We are available to our clients 24/7, answering any questions you may have and keeping you informed of developments in your case. Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to get you a positive outcome.
If you are facing gun charges in New Jersey, call Clark, Clark & Noonan today for a free consultation.
NJ Gun Laws
New Jersey is considered to have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. New Jersey’s gun laws include:
- Permit requirement – Every person is required to obtain a permit to legally possess a firearm.
- Age limit – No person under the age of 18 may obtain a firearms permit, while a person must be 21 to apply for a handgun permit.
- Firearms purchaser ID – Anyone who wishes to purchase a rifle or shotgun must obtain a firearms purchaser ID. There is also a separate permit that must be issued by your local chief of police or by the State Police superintendent to purchase a handgun.
- Prohibitions on certain persons – Any person convicted of certain crimes, on a terror watch list, or institutionalized for a mental disorder cannot lawfully possess a firearm.
- Handgun restrictions – Any person applying for a handgun permit must have their application approved by a judge by demonstrating a “justifiable need,” including an “urgent necessity for self-protection.”
- ID requirement for ammunition purchases – A person must have a firearms purchaser ID to buy ammo.
- Assault weapons – All assault weapons are prohibited.
- Magazine restrictions – Semiautomatic firearms may not have magazines exceeding 10 rounds.
- Background check requirement – Anyone wishing to have a firearm privately transferred to them must pass a background check through a federally-licensed firearms dealer.
- Transportation of firearms – Firearms may be carried in your vehicle provided it is unloaded, in a locked case, and kept somewhere inaccessible to the vehicle’s occupants, like the trunk.
- Bump stocks – Bump stocks are prohibited.
- Ghost guns – “Ghost guns,” or firearms assembled at home with untraceable parts, are prohibited.
What Is the NJ Red Flag Law?
Finally, New Jersey also has a “red flag” law, a law that is being adopted in more and more states. Under the red flag law, law enforcement can confiscate the firearms of any individual believed to pose a threat to themselves or others, upon obtaining judicial approval for the confiscation.
The law also allows family members to make a request to the police or the court to have a person’s firearms and ammunition removed based on the family’s belief that their loved one poses a threat to themselves and others.
Under the red flag law, a judge will issue a temporary order requiring the gun owner to surrender their firearms. Within 10 days, the owner will be granted a hearing at which the court will decide whether to grant a final protective order or to release the firearms back to their owner.
Who Cannot Own a Firearm in NJ?
State law prohibits certain categories of individuals from owning firearms at any time and for any reason:
- Anyone convicted of a violent crime (including homicide, aggravated assault, arson, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, sexual assault, or domestic violence), regardless of whether or not they used a firearm during the commission of that crime
- Any person with a prior domestic violence conviction
- Any person who has been committed for mental health treatment
It should be noted that a conviction or institutionalization from another state still prohibits you from possessing a firearm in New Jersey.
In addition, certain other categories of persons may be barred from obtaining a license that allows a person to lawfully possess a firearm in New Jersey, including:
- Persons who are subjected to a restraining order
- Persons who have been deemed by a court to be drug dependent
- Persons who are listed on terror watch lists
Finally, persons under a certain age cannot apply for a firearms license. Persons under the age of 18 cannot apply for any type of firearms license, while a person must be at least 21 years old to apply for a permit to possess a handgun (unless their job requires them to possess a handgun).
What Is Considered an Illegal Firearm in NJ?
Under New Jersey law, a firearm can be considered an “illegal” firearm either because that type of firearm is prohibited in New Jersey, or because the person who has possession of the firearm is prohibited from possessing a firearm, or because the person is using the firearm for an illegal purpose.
Firearms that are completely prohibited (with exceptions for the military, law enforcement, and persons with certain federal firearms licenses) under New Jersey law include:
- Sawed-off shotguns
- Firearms with silencers
- Firearms with their serial numbers altered, removed, or otherwise made illegible
- Firearms with armor-piercing rounds
Even a firearm that would otherwise be legal may be deemed illegal based on the circumstances of the person possessing the firearm, such as:
- Unlawful possession of a firearm – New Jersey law requires everyone to obtain a permit to possess a firearm. If you don’t have the proper license for your firearm, you can be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. You can also be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm if you are found in possession of a firearm in a place where they are prohibited, such as a school.
- Possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose – The law prohibits a person from using a firearm against another person or the property of another person, typically as part of another crime like assault or robbery.
- Possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime – New Jersey makes it illegal to even be in possession of a firearm while you are committing another crime, even if you don’t use the firearm during the crime. In particular, if you are convicted of being in possession of a firearm while distributing or selling drugs, you will be subjected to a sentence that will run consecutive to your drug sentence.
- Persons prohibited from owning a firearm – People with certain prior convictions or institutionalization for mental health treatment are prohibited from possessing firearms.
Penalties if You Are Convicted of a Weapons Charge in NJ
New Jersey has extremely strict laws when it comes to illegal possession of firearms. If you are convicted of a weapons charge in New Jersey, you could be facing serious penalties even for the least serious weapons offenses.
New Jersey sentencing statutes for weapons offenses even imposes mandatory minimum sentences and restrictions on parole eligibility for certain weapons offenses.
If you have been convicted of a weapons offense, you could be facing the following penalties:
- Fourth-degree weapons offenses – Up to 18 months imprisonment and up to $7500 in fines
- Third-degree weapons offenses – Up to five years imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines
- Second-degree weapons offenses – Up to 10 years imprisonment with a mandatory period of parole ineligibility ranging between one and three-and-a-half years, and up to $150,000 in fines
Weapons convictions in New Jersey carry harsh penalties, so if you or a loved one are facing firearms charges in New Jersey, you need a dedicated, experienced gun crime defense attorney on your side to help you minimize the consequences of a conviction or even avoid a conviction altogether.
Potential Defenses to NJ Gun Crime Charges
If you’ve been charged with a gun crime in New Jersey, there may be legal defenses you can raise against your charges, depending on the circumstances of your case, including:
- Possession – In cases where the state argues that you had constructive possession of a firearm, rather than actual, physical possession, you may be able to raise a defense that you did not have legal constructive possession of the firearm; rather, that the firearm belonged to someone else.
- Valid license – If you are being charged with unlawful possession, having a valid license in New Jersey to possess the firearm is a defense.
- Unlawful search – Many weapons charges defenses hinge on proving that the police’s search that uncovered the firearm was unlawful or unconstitutional; it may be possible to show that police lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop or detain or arrest you or lacked probable cause to conduct a warrantless search, or that a search warrant was improperly issued because there was insufficient probable cause.
A strong legal strategy to defend against gun charges in New Jersey may also include vigorous plea negotiations to reduce the seriousness of your charges. The most serious gun crimes in New Jersey carry harsh penalties, so reducing the seriousness of your charges can go a long way to reducing your exposure to extensive prison time.
When You Need a Gun Crimes Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a gun crime in New Jersey, you need a dedicated, experienced gun crime defense attorney on your side. Navigating the criminal justice system is a complex, difficult task, and is even more complicated for someone with no experience in the law.
You need a gun crimes defense attorney to help you understand the charges against you, advise you on how to proceed after you’ve been arrested and are being questioned by law enforcement, and build a strong, effective legal strategy that can help you minimize or even avoid the consequences of a firearms conviction.
Contact Clark, Clark & Noonan today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with our New Jersey gun crime defense attorneys and to learn more about your legal rights and options.