What is Unlawful Possession of Weapons?
When it comes to gun policy and enforcement, New Jersey is one of the toughest states in the country. Whether it is a refusal to recognize the gun permits of people from other states passing through New Jersey, to the broad parameters of what constitutes a weapon, being on the wrong side of weapon possession laws carries severe repercussions. New Jersey comes down hard on those persons convicted of firearm and other weapon offenses, imposing hefty fines and mandatory minimum periods of prison time and parole ineligibility.
What Are the Different Types of Unlawful Weapon Possession?
The severity of the penalties incurred in an unlawful possession of weapon charge are predicated on what kind of weapon was involved in the offense. These are outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5. All the following charges are assumed to be committed without a proper license or permit.
- Machine Gun possession is a second degree offense.
- Handgun possession is a second degree offense, unless they are BB guns, airsoft guns or other types of spring or gas guns, in which case they are a third degree offense.
- Rifle and Shotgun possession are considered a third degree offense, as is carrying a loaded shotgun or rifle unless permitted by law to do so.
- Assault Firearm possession is considered a second degree offense unless it is properly licensed or registered or has been rendered inoperable.
- Other Weapons are all illegal in all instances where they are possessed “under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses” and are considered a fourth degree offense. The term “weapon” refers to any objects or instruments capable of being used to inflict serious bodily injury.
What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove in a Weapons Possession Case?
There are four elements that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in any weapons possession case.
- The prosecution must prove the instrument involved was a weapon
- They must then prove that the defendant actually or constructively possessed the weapon.
- The prosecution must also prove the defendant knew the weapon was in their possession and that they knew it was a weapon.
- They must prove that the defendant lacked the appropriate permit or licenses or that it was manifestly inappropriate for lawful use.
Note that Possession of Weapons for Unlawful Purposes (NJ 2C:39-4) is a separate crime with separate penalties. You can possess a weapon for unlawful purposes even if you own it legally.
The Penalties for Unlawful Possession of Weapons
Unlawful possession is always considered an indictable offense, the equivalent of a felony in other states. These cases always end up in the Superior Court of whatever county the offense happened in. The possession of firearms is governed by the Graves Act. This act imposes mandatory minimums of incarceration time and parole ineligibility.
- Unlawful Possession of Weapons in the Second Degree
- Between 5-10 years prison time
- Fines of up to $150,000
- Parole ineligibility between 3-5 years
- Unlawful Possession of Weapons in the Third Degree
- Between 3-5 years prison time
- Fines of up to $15,000
- Parole ineligibility of 3 years minimum
- Unlawful Possession of Weapons in the Fourth Degree
- Up to 18 months prison time
- Fines of up to $10,000
Remember that the penalties will only get more severe if you have been convicted of previous offenses.
Have You Been Charged with Unlawful Weapons Possession?
Facing down an unlawful possession of weapons charge in New Jersey is a frightening prospect. The law is very harsh on those convicted of such crimes. Therefore, you want the best defense possible in order to beat the charges. At Schneider Freiberger, we know how the prosecution works and we will strive to put together a comprehensive defense using our skill and experience in order to avoid a conviction.