You likely never imagined that you'd be dealing with a gun charge, and if it's your first time dealing with the legal system, it's normal to have trouble deciding where to turn. If you're facing a gun charge in New Jersey, you likely feel nervous, scared, and unsure of what will happen next and how it could affect your criminal record.
Gun laws in New Jersey are strict, and it's important that you choose a lawyer that has dealt with cases similar to yours. Single firearms offenses in New Jersey can carry hefty sentences, and the state recently cracked down even more than in the past. You must work with a lawyer that can get your charges dismissed, reduced, or dropped.
This guide will detail everything you need to know to help you fight your gun charge in NJ. Gun laws can be complicated, and understanding your charge is the first step toward getting the outcome you want from your case.
Whether you've just been charged, are waiting for your arraignment, or already have your court date scheduled, we know the ins and outs of firearm law in New Jersey, and we're here to help.
At Breslow Law Offices, our criminal defense attorneys are on your side, and we know how to beat a gun charge in NJ. We've helped countless clients with gun charges get reduced criminal charges and prison sentences for those facing possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a handgun, aggravated assault, and other weapons offenses in New Jersey.
In many cases, our weapons charge defense attorneys have helped clients get their cases dismissed.
We know how to fight for your rights, and we'll help you get the best outcome possible. If you’re facing an unlawful possession of a weapon charge and have questions about how our criminal defense lawyers can help reach out to us today.
Call 973-239-8000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
What is a gun charge in New Jersey?
If you're facing a gun charge in New Jersey, it's important to know exactly what you're up against. New Jersey has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and if you've been charged with a gun-related crime, it's important that you fully understand your charge and work with a legal team that can fight for your best interests. The first step in fighting your charge is learning about the different kinds of gun charges in the state of New Jersey.
There are two types of gun charges in New Jersey: laws pertaining to the legal purchase and ownership of firearms and gun offenses and criminal gun charges. Both categories can carry severe sentences.
Laws related to the purchase and ownership of firearms in New Jersey
If you want to own any firearm in the state of New Jersey, you're required to have a permit. Registration is not technically required in the state of New Jersey. When you get your permit for your firearm, the state has your information—much like the registration process in other states.
Possessing a banned firearm in the state of New Jersey can result in a hefty charge that may include prison time. Many types of firearms are illegal in the state of NJ, including assault rifles.
Any gun with a magazine that weighs more than 10 pounds is prohibited in New Jersey (unless the firearm was acquired before 1990, in which case, it's grandfathered in and not subject to prohibition). Other prohibited weapons in New Jersey include sawed-off shotguns, explosive devices, defaced firearms, silencers, and switchblade knives.
If you illegally purchase a firearm in the state of New Jersey, or if you own a handgun, shotgun, machine gun or similar firearm and fail to take the proper steps for legal firearm possession, you could be charged with a crime.
You do not need to fire the gun or have the intent to use it criminally in order to be charged with crimes related to illegal gun purchase and/or ownership. Simply possessing a firearm without using it for a criminal purpose can result in a felony charge.
A permit is required to carry a firearm in New Jersey. The state is notorious for making it tough to get a permit to carry a weapon. If you've carried a weapon without a permit, you could be hit with a gun charge. Most firearm carrying permits are issued to active-duty police officers and some retired police officers.
Others who want to get a permit to carry a firearm need to prove that carrying a gun is necessary for their safety.
Laws related to gun offenses and criminal gun charges in NJ
If you've used a gun in a way that's inconsistent with the law, you could be charged with a criminal gun offense or charge. New Jersey's gun crime laws are some of the toughest in the nation.
Many gun charges in New Jersey come with mandatory minimum sentencing requirements due to the Graves Act (contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6).
This Act is specific to New Jersey and requires that judges assign minimum sentences for certain gun-related crimes, including unlawful disposition of a firearm and using a firearm while committing a violent crime.
If you've been charged with a gun-related crime in New Jersey, you must work with a law firm that has the experience necessary to beat your charge.
Don't wait until things get bad to reach out to a lawyer. It's important to have a team that will fight for you every step of the way.
What are the penalties for a gun charge in New Jersey?
Many factors determine the penalty for a gun charge in New Jersey. No matter what type of crime you're charged with, your lawyer can help you fight your charge, potentially reducing your charge (and your sentence). Many gun crimes fall into one of the following four degree offenses:
First-degree gun crimes
First-degree gun grimes the most severe type of felony gun charge in New Jersey.
The Graves Act makes those convicted of a first-degree gun crime ineligible for parole with a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. Crimes that fit into this category include murder, kidnappings, and armed robbery when the offender uses a gun during the commission of a crime.
Second-degree gun crimes
Second-degree gun crimes in New Jersey carry a sentence of 5 to 10 years, even if the person on trial has never been convicted of a crime before. People convicted of second-degree felonies may become eligible for parole after serving three years in a New Jersey state prison.
Crimes classified as second-degree gun felonies include possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and illegal handgun possession. It's presumed that all offenders in this category will serve prison time, even if they've never been convicted of a crime before.
Third-degree gun crimes
Gun felonies in this category are punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison. First-time offenders may be sentenced to parole or community service instead of serving prison time. Examples of third-degree gun crimes include offenses committed with airsoft or BB guns or crimes committed using non-firearm weapons, such as baseball bats or metal knuckles.
Fourth-degree gun crimes
The lowest level felony charge, fourth-degree gun crimes in New Jersey are punishable by up to 18 months in prison, and many first-time offenders do not receive prison time for a fourth-degree charge.
Typically, gun offenses do not fall into this category. Most weapons charges in this category are illegal ammunition, a stun gun, or a stiletto knife.
Some gun crimes in New Jersey do not fall into any of the four felony categories.
4 Ways to beat a gun charge in New Jersey
Working with a criminal defense lawyer who can help you through every step of the legal process is important for getting through this difficult time.
Four main strategies can be used to help you get your gun charge dropped or reduced:
1. Challenge the Consent of a Search
For a search to be considered valid during a vehicle stop, the driver must consent to the search. If you were pulled over and made to believe that you didn't have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle, it's possible that you did not consent to search.
In some cases, police officers say that they have the right to search the vehicle, making the driver feel like they don't have a choice about whether to allow the officer to search their car.
In New Jersey, officers must inform drivers of their right to refuse their request to search their vehicle. Often, police officers or law enforcement who pull people over and ask to search the vehicle require the driver to sign a consent form before the search begins.
In order for the consent to search to be valid, the form must be filled out in its entirety. Suppose a judge determines that you did not consent to the search of your vehicle. In that case, your charge will likely be thrown out, as the judge will no longer be able to consider anything found during the illegal search as evidence against you.
2. Challenge an Illegal Search
Police are not permitted to search a vehicle during a traffic stop simply. In New Jersey, police cannot simply search a vehicle without probable cause. Even if the driver gives consent for the vehicle search, the evidence may be thrown out in court if it's proven that the police did not have reasonable cause to search the vehicle.
In New Jersey, police are not even allowed to ask the driver for their consent to a search unless they have probable cause to search the vehicle. If you were charged with a weapons crime after a vehicle search, it's vital that you carefully describe the search details to your lawyer to discover whether the search was legal.
3. Challenge a Bad Warrant
Sometimes, the police do have the warrant to search a car or a home. When a police officer gets a search warrant from a judge, they must present evidence that shows the judge that the search is necessary and will likely result in evidence of a crime.
If the police officer requesting the warrant falsified information or made assumptions about what they were likely to find, it's possible that the warrant could be thrown out in court. This could result in the case being thrown out altogether. Remember—just because a police officer had a warrant does not mean that the search was valid.
4. Plea Negotiations
Sometimes, it's not possible to get a charge completely thrown out of court. If a crime was clearly committed (or if you've decided to plead guilty to the crime), sentencing is unavoidable. In this case, it's essential to work closely with your lawyer to make a plea negotiation that can reduce your charge.
This may mean that you'll be required to provide the police or the court with information related to your case or another case. This may also mean that your lawyer works with the judge to exchange a guilty plea for a lower sentence, such as community service in place of jail time.
No detail is too small when it comes to working with your lawyer. Be sure to share all the details of what happened when your incident occurred. The more your lawyer knows, the better they'll be able to help you fight your charge.
Facing a New Jersey weapons charge? We can help.
When you've been charged with a gun crime in New Jersey, you likely have many questions. From figuring out potential prison time to working with your lawyer to understand their strategy, it takes some work to make your way from arraignment to the end of your trial.
A good legal team is vital to your success in the courtroom.
You need someone who will fight for your rights. When life happens, experience matters. At Breslow Law Offices, we're here to provide you with generations of experience—and a reputation for getting the job done right.
Call us today at 973-239-8000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.