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Firearms & Weapons Charges

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The criminal code controlling firearms and weapons appears in chapter 39 of Title 2C. It provides a long list of definitions used throughout the section to define various terms. The code also contains certain presumptions such as any weapon found in a vehicle belongs to everyone in the vehicle and a person found to be possessing a weapon is assumed not to have a valid license or permit for the weapon until they prove otherwise.

Sentencing for firearm-related offenses falls under the Graves Act which requires mandatory periods of incarceration without the possibility of parole, with very few exceptions. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough that if any person is charged with a firearm or weapon offense, they immediately seek the assistance of counsel who specializes in criminal defense. With that in mind, the commonly charged firearm and weapon statutes are described below.

Call Roberts & Teeter today at (732) 607-5553 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our criminal defense attorneys in New Jersey.

Prohibited Weapons & Devices

The following items are always illegal to possess no matter the circumstances:

  • Destructive devices, meaning things that blow up. Third-degree.
  • Sawed-off shotguns. Third-degree.
  • Silencer. Fourth-degree.
  • Defaced firearms, meaning the name, model, or serial number has been altered, hidden, or destroyed.
  • Certain (other) weapons including a gravity knife, switchblade, dagger, dirk, stiletto, billy, blackjack, metal knuckles, sand club, and/or slingshot, without any explainable lawful purpose. Fourth-degree.
  • Dum-dum (hollow-point) or body armor penetrating bullets. Fourth-degree.
  • Exceptions exist for certain law enforcement persons, those who guard nuclear facilities, and those who are licensed as wholesale firearm dealers.
  • Stun guns. Fourth-degree.
  • Handcuffs not manifestly appropriate for lawful use is a disorderly persons offense. Note that the criminal code does not attempt to define what kinds of lawful purposes consenting adults may have for handcuffs.

Possession of Weapons for Unlawful Purposes

Under this statute, there are five kinds of weapons which may be possessed for unlawful purposes.

In order of the most serious, they include:

  • Firearms. Any person who possesses a firearm with the intent to use it unlawfully against another person or property is guilty of a second-degree crime. Here, it is important to understand that the person does not have to fire the weapon to be considered using it.
  • Explosives. It is a second-degree crime to possess an explosive with the purpose to use it unlawfully against another person or property.
  • Destructive devices. Second-degree.
  • Other weapons possessed with purpose to use them unlawfully against another person or property is a third-degree crime.
  • Imitation firearms. Possessing a fake firearm which would lead a reasonable person to think it was real, when possessed for an unlawful purpose, is a crime of the fourth degree.

Weapons Possessed in Conjunction with Drugs

The legislature has created a separate statute with separate enhanced penalties for when drugs and guns are found together. Under 2C:39-4.1a, any person found to be in possession of a firearm while distributing or attempting to distribute drugs is guilty of a second-degree crime. The same is true if a person possesses a weapon other than a firearm, such as a knife, if the person intends to use the weapon unlawfully while distributing or attempting to distribute drugs. Importantly, a conviction under this statute does not merge with the drug conviction and the sentences will run consecutively.

Unlawful Possession of Weapons

The laws regarding unlawful possession of weapons are as follows:

  • Machine guns. Unlawful possession of a machine gun, which the code defines as being capable of firing more than one shot per pull of the trigger, is a third-degree crime.
  • Handguns. Possession of a handgun without a valid permit is a second-degree crime. Possession of certain kinds of less deadly firearms, like spring guns and those that operate by compressed air, is a third-degree crime.
  • Shotguns and rifles. Possession of a shotgun or rifle without having first obtained the required identification card is a third-degree crime.
  • Other weapons. Possession of any other weapon in situations not appropriate for such lawful use is guilty of a fourth-degree crime.
  • Firearms and/or other weapons within educational institutions. Third-degree crime even if you have a valid permit for the weapon.
  • Assault firearms. Possession for any purpose is a third-degree crime. A list of assault firearms is provided in the Code at 2C:39-1w.

Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons

Once a person has been convicted of certain specified prior crimes, they are forever prohibited from carrying any weapons and if are found to be in possession of a weapon, a separate second-degree crime has occurred. Additionally, a five-year period of parole ineligibility will be imposed.

Call our criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey today for strong legal defense against all weapons charges. Schedule a free consultation by calling us at
(732) 607-5553.

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