Unlawful Possession of a Weapon
New Jersey Law makes it illegal to possess a weapon under certain circumstances. The law we are referring to is N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5 and it covers not only possession of a handgun without a license/permit but all forms of firearms and other weapons. You should also know that the Graves Act and its requirement that violators serve a mandatory period of incarceration often applies to those who are found guilty under 2C:39-5. The legal complexities involved in unlawful possession of a weapon charge certainly demand skilled attorney intervention in our judgment. At the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall we have former New Jersey Prosecutors experienced in defending all varieties of weapon offense including unlawful possession charges. If you were arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm or other weapon, give us a call for a free case evaluation at 908-272-1700.
Understanding The Unlawful Possession Law – N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5
The first thing you probably want to know is that 2C:39-5 applies to both residents and non-residents. What this means is that if you are someone visiting or just passing through Union County, for example, an out-of-state contractor or trucker, you are nevertheless subject to the requirements imposed under this law. Accordingly, while you may possess a valid pistol/handgun/rifle license in another state, you must comply with the limitations for possession and/or transport of the weapon mandated under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5. In this regard, this law is broken down by type of weapon as follows:
- Machine Guns. Individuals may possess a machine gun under very limited circumstances in NJ and only where a valid license has been issued pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-5. Failure to adhere to this requirement results in a second degree crime.
- Rifles & Shotguns. It is illegal to possess a rifle or shotgun in NJ unless it has been acquired with a validly issued firearms purchaser identification card. A violation of this section is a third degree crime.
- Other Weapons. All other weapons are illegal where they are possessed “under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses…” A conviction for this charge is a fourth degree crime.
The term “weapon” covers all objects and things capable of being used to inflict serious bodily injury. “Not manifestly appropriate for lawful use” means that the nature of the object is such that it is easily understood or recognized that it poses a threat to person or property. This should be distinguished from a situation where the possessor has an unlawful purpose, something that gives rise to an entirely different charge.
What Does The Prosecutor Need To Prove To Convict Someone Of Unlawful Possession Of A Weapon?
To convict someone of violating N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5, the prosecutor must establish four (4) elements. It must be established, beyond reasonable doubt, that the:
- Instrument was a weapon;
- Defendant actually or constructively possessed it;
- Defendant knew he possessed it and that it was a weapon; and
- That the defendant lacked the requisite license or permit, or that it was manifestly appropriate for lawful use.
It should also be noted in this section that the defense of self-defense only applies where the weapon is something other than a firearm and is being used to address a spontaneous and compelling danger.
What are the Penalties for Unlawfully Possessing a Weapon?
Unlawful possession of a weapon can be in the second, third, or fourth degree crime. A second degree offense will carry up to ten (10) years in prison and a $150,000 fine. A third degree offense exposes the defendant to five (5) years in prison and a $15,000 fine. A fourth degree unlawful possession offense includes eighteen (18) months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Additionally, a conviction for possessing some of these weapons will, as previously stated, trigger mandatory terms of imprisonment under the Graves Act. The absolutely minimum period of incarceration under this law, absent a waiver or downgrade, is the greater of one-third of the sentence imposed or three (3) years.
Roselle New Jersey Illegal Firearm Lawyer
The potential for a mandatory prison sentence makes unlawful possession of a weapon an offense that can have a life-altering impact. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has the skills and experience necessary to insure that your best chance of avoiding a conviction and jail is fulfilled. Call one of our former prosecutors for assistance now at 908-272-1700.