Understanding Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Charges in New Jersey

A selection of guns sitting on a table. The most visible gun, a revolver, has had its ammo removed.

Although some citizens are allowed to own firearms in New Jersey, there are many conditions when possession is illegal. The consequences for unlawful possession of a weapon in NJ are as harsh as they are complicated, as many factors can influence the severity of the charge. To learn more about illegal firearm possession in New Jersey, here’s an overview of the state’s various gun laws and what consequences can be expected.

What Is Considered Legal Possession?

Owning a Firearms Identification Card (FID) is required for gun ownership. Without it, you’ll be guilty of unlawful possession of a weapon in NJ. During the application process, an individual must receive a background evaluation, fingerprinting, and mental health record check. If an individual wants to own a handgun, they must obtain another permit.

Even if you qualify for an identification permit, there are still many rules that must be followed to avoid gun charges in NJ. For example, many firearm types, such as assault rifles, are illegal to purchase. Further, certified gun owners must keep them in their home or business, provided they are the owner. If they want to transport it to another location, the bullets have to be removed from the magazine, and the gun must be securely locked in a container.

What Is Considered Illegal Possession?

The law prohibits certain individuals from owning firearms to prevent guns from being misused. You won’t be allowed to own a gun and will be charged with unlawful possession of a weapon in NJ if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You’re under 18 years of age. When handguns are involved, the age is raised to 21.
  • You’re on a terrorist watchlist.
  • You’re guilty of an offense involving domestic violence.
  • You have been confined for a mental disorder, and a doctor agrees with the decision.
  • You’re considered dangerous in other ways, such as having a substance abuse problem.
  • You have a felony conviction.

There are two ways an individual can be in possession of a firearm: actual and constructive. Actual means actually physically having it on one’s person, whether in a pocket, jacket, or other storage methods. Constructive possession is more complicated. It pertains to situations where an individual knows where the firearm is and has control over it.

What Are the Charges for Unlawful Possession of a Weapon in NJ?

Gun charges in NJ and many other states are serious and almost always result in prison time. However, the severity of the charges changes depending on the nature of the violation. Here is an overview of the different charges you could receive for unlawful possession of a weapon in NJ:

Possession Without a Permit

Possessing a firearm without having an FID is considered illegal. However, the charges differ greatly between shotguns and handguns. Unlawful possession of a shotgun is considered a third-degree crime that can result in three to five years of prison and a maximum fine of $15,000, while handgun possessions are a second-degree crime that may have a five to ten-year punishment and a $150,000 fine. Handgun-related crimes tend to be more severely punished because they are easily concealed compared to shotguns.

Possession of Specific Firearms and Ammunition

Certain firearms cannot be owned by anyone, even if they have a license to carry guns. Silencers and bullets that penetrate body armor can lead to 18 months in prison, while assault rifles and sawed-off shotguns are deemed second and third-degree crimes, respectively. BB guns are also illegal to own without a permit in New Jersey and can result in three to five prison years.

Possession of a Firearm For an Unlawful Purpose

It is illegal to possess a firearm while also having the intent to use it against someone unlawfully, such as for murder. This second-degree crime can incur five to ten years in prison. Under the No Early Release Act, individuals must serve 85% of their sentence if the possession violation was used in kidnapping, robbery, or action of similar severity.

Possession of a Firearm During Unlawful Behavior

Possessing a firearm while involved in drug dealing or during a bias offense both fall under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1 and can result in similar consequences. Namely, each violation is considered a second-degree offense in New Jersey. It is important to note that these charges cannot be merged with unlawful possession, which means the possibility of additional jail time.

Can Gun Charges in NJ Be Challenged?

If you or a loved one has been charged with unlawful possession of a weapon in NJ, know that you can get assistance. A professional defense attorney will know what strategies to use in court to contest charges and reduce their client’s punishment. For experienced New Jersey aggravated assault lawyers, contact the Shugar Law Office today. We offer many legal services, and our criminal defense attorneys in NJ have the expertise and resources to help your case.

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